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DMA produces fact sheet on advertising mail

04 Jul 2011 6:32 BST Back
DMA produces fact sheet on advertising mail

Also in the news

Panorama, BBC1’s flagship current affairs show, this week turns its attention on the advertising mail industry. 

In an episode entitled Why hate junk mail? reporter Tom Heap looks at the criticisms levelled at what is commonly referred to as ‘junk mail’. 

The build-up to the programme has already incited a flurry of media interest from national and regional radio stations, as well as the national press. 

While it’s not clear at the time of writing what the exact focus of the programme will be, the pre-publicity indicates that it will hear from consumer and environmental groups, as well as industry figures, to assess the arguments for and against advertising mail.

Commenting ahead of the broadcast of the programme, Chris Combemale, executive director of the DMA, said that he hopes the programme provides a balanced view of the arguments:

“There is, of course, a huge degree of concern out there regarding what’s popularly referred to as ‘junk mail’. We agree that badly targeted, unwanted mail needs to be eliminated, and as an industry we’re making great strides in achieving this. Nowadays, 76% of all unwanted and used advertising mail is recycled.

“Contrary to what has been quoted widely in the press, the taxpayer doesn’t foot a £50m bill to dispose of unwanted and used advertising mail. There should be no additional cost to the taxpayer when there are council schemes in place to collect and recycle all forms of waste paper. The fact is that unwanted and unused mail is recyclable and need not end up in landfill.”

Combemale added that even if there is a cost to the taxpayer, it is far offset by the contribution that it makes to the UK economy:

“Every year, advertising mail generates £16bn of sales for UK businesses and supports 280,000 jobs, all of whom are taxpayers.”

The DMA has produced a fact sheet outlining the criticisms of ‘junk mail’, and covers the facts about the industry. Click here to read or see below. 

The facts and figures about advertising mail 

How damaging is advertising mail to the environment?
We agree wastage from advertising mail needs to be reduced and the DMA has been helping the industry shape up. In 2003, Defra set the industry the target of ensuring that 70% of all used advertising mail is recycled by 2013. This target was smashed four years early in 2009, with 76% of advertising mail being recycled. 

Since 2003, the volume of advertising mail now being sent to landfill every year has fallen by 80%. Now, advertising mail represents just 0.4% of the average household’s unrecycled waste. 

What is the industry doing to clean up its act?
The DMA and BSi have produced an environmental standard called PAS 2020, which provides the guidelines for producing environmentally sustainable advertising mail.

Targeting practices are continually improving, meaning that excess advertising mail is not produced.  The Mailing Preference Service www.mpsonline.org.uk is an industry funded scheme for householders to opt out of receiving unwanted advertising mail. More than five million households are now registered – nearly 20% of all households. 

I’ve never bought anything from junk mail. Does it really work?
Really, you’ve never redeemed a coupon you’ve received in the post? The vast majority of people have. Advertising mail works; if it didn’t then companies would not spend money on it. According to the Mail Media Centre, 17.7 million people bought something after receiving a mail order catalogue in the past 12 months.  

Every year, advertising mail generates £16 billion in sales – a massive contribution to UK plc at a time when high street retailers are suffering.For the majority of businesses, it’s the only form of advertising they can afford. Most companies can’t afford to pay for TV, radio, billboard, or newspaper ads. 

People hate receiving junk mail, so why bother sending it?
Research conducted by Royal Mail shows that the majority of people still prefer to be contacted by mail by the businesses they’re customers of, than by any other method of communication: for example, 46% of BT customers prefer to be contacted by mail, compared to 22% by email; 50% of Churchill’s customers prefer to be contacted by mail, compared to 20% who prefer to be contacted by email.

There’s plenty of research to show that the majority of consumers welcome receiving advertising mail that provides them with exclusive offers on products they like. For example, research by BMRB reveals that 75% of consumers like receiving special offers and vouchers through the post. The same research also reveals that consumers like mail alerting them to new products and services they might want to try, etc

While many people conduct their lives online, there are still plenty of people who don’t. Advertising mail is a source of information on products and services they might not otherwise have access to.

The delivery of poorly targeted mail – ‘junk mail’ – is unacceptable. The industry now has sophisticated data collection methods and data cleaning tools, so there is no excuse for sending poorly targeted mail. And, it’s not in the interest of businesses to waste money and annoy consumers with badly targeted mail.

Why should the taxpayer have to foot the bill for disposing junk mail?
The majority (76% at last count in 2009) of advertising mail is now recycled, and so doesn’t go into costly landfill. The cost of disposing adverting mail is more than offset by the industry’s contribution to the economy. UK businesses spend £11.2 billion on advertising mail every year and it generates £16 billion in sales.

Also, the advertising mail industry is responsible for an estimated 280,000 jobs, all of whom are taxpayers of course.

Why should Royal Mail be allowed to profit from delivering junk mail?
Royal Mail actually loses 6.4p per item of stamped mail that it delivers. The average household now spends less than 40p on postage per week. Royal Mail can’t survive on this revenue alone. Advertising mail provides 25% of Royal Mail’s revenue and therefore subsidises the postal service. (Source: Hooper Report / Postcomm)

Consumers accept that commercial TV, radio, online, free press are funded and subsidised by advertising. However, consumers don’t understand the fact that advertising provides them with an economical postal service.

Also, consumers can’t blame the messenger if they receive mail they don’t like. Royal Mail has a legal obligation to deliver the mail.

Posted by 

Neil Turner

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