It’s the BBC on “Junk Mail” – Again!

by Graham Dodd on 19/12/2011

The recent BBC programme “That’s Britain”  featuring “junk mail” predictably stuck in my throat – and judging by the reaction of some of my peers in various postings I’ve seen, I am not alone.

Following on from the similarly biased Panorama programme earlier in the year that featured consumers with a supposed beef about what comes through their doors, why is the industry not given a real voice to answer the criticism?

Okay, in “That’s Britain”, Chris Combemale from the DMA was given seconds of airtime to identify the value of the industry to the economy, but this was totally inadequate to really challenge the reporters/investigators/programme makers prejudices.

Somebody needs to ask them, and the consumers they interview, some unbiased questions, which I’m willing to bet, would generate some interesting answers!

In the two BBC programmes, 100% of consumers interviewed (probably less than ten people) wanted to find a way of stopping door drop material coming through their letterboxes – although some of them appeared to confuse door drops with direct mail – the same confusion that the BBC continually suffer from.

Conversely, in the Royal Mail’s recent FreshMinds research, based on a much more robust sample of interviews than the BBC can manage (2,008 interviews) – 80% of adults were happy to receive a door drop leaflet when it was on a topic of interest to them.

So why the difference? Is there a difference?

I would really like the opportunity of asking the consumers in the two BBC programmes about their supposed “junk mail” consumption habits.

Most claim to directly recycle anything that comes through their doors and some claim not to even look at it. Do you believe that?

Are they really saying they are throwing items away without knowing what they are getting rid of – I seriously doubt it, it’s just not human nature to discard something without even a cursory examination.

Like real consumers, is it not more likely they scan the items they receive and then decide what to throw away and what to retain? – 45% of people confirm they keep leaflets – RM/FreshMinds.

Are these people really saying they have:

  • never redeemed a money off coupon
  • tried a product sample
  • read a local free newspaper
  • or visited a website to take advantage of an offer

as a result of a leaflet or sample arriving through their letterboxes?

One Man’s “Junk”, Another Man’s Gold

I think what they mean is they throw away what they consider to be “junk”, ignoring the fact that one man’s junk another man’s gold.

And therein lies one of the biggest issues the industry faces when considering the creation of a suppression scheme promised by the Government.

Consumers, legislators, special interest groups and more, will have to be educated to understand that any opt scheme in theory means receiving everything or nothing.

Except that “national opting out” will not stop unaddressed material still being delivered by private individuals trying to find a lost cat or dog, or a local company promoting their services. Nor will it stop some service providers who will either be blissfully unaware of a scheme or more worryingly, choose to ignore its existence.

And that will happen, because managers of large and small businesses understand that door drop leafleting can be one of their most productive marketing tools and they will not wish to loose the opportunity to use it.

So the message that door drops are appreciated by consumers, and that users have a commercial interest in reducing wastage by not delivering to inappropriate households, has to be spread upwards into government.

One final point

“That’s Britain” started with Caroline Spelman MP championing the supposed consumer crusade against “junk mail”.

In the last election 25,312 people in Mrs Spelman’s constituency voted against her, despite her stuffing leaflets through many local letterboxes, and many people chose not to vote. One wonders whether they thought Mrs. Spelman’s promotional literature junk or worse!

For God’s sake, door drops work and that has to be good for the general economy. Otherwise UK Marketing Directors are wasting billions of pounds of shareholders’ money and we know they can’t afford too do that.

If there is going to be further discussion on a suppression scheme, it will be important to take personal opinion and prejudice out of the argument and use facts. What’s more, any scheme’s implementation should not be considered to be a vote winner.

The industry needs to plays its part and continue to preach the targeting gospel to clients and business influencers far and wide – a key factor in reducing wastage.

Both clients and their agencies need to take that advice on board.

This article was written by...

– who has written 28 posts on Letterbox Consultancy for Door Drop Marketing.

Graham Dodd is the founder of The Letterbox Consultancy - he has over 40 years of experience in the door drop industry and remains at the forefront of innovation in the business.

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