Lone Ranger leads fight against junk mail

Gerry Ranger has stacked up more direct mail than most people. According to the BBC, the pensioner from Gloucestershire, England collected over 700 mailshots in the course of a year in order to demonstrate the amount of resources that are wasted through this particular form of advertising.

If I had a penny for every time someone’s told me they throw all ‘junk’ mail in the bin, I’d certainly have collected enough cash to buy one of those carriage clocks they give away as a free gift with insurance offers. The general consensus is that direct marketers are on a hiding to nothing. But as someone who’s written direct mail myself, I have to let you in on a little secret. The mailshots do work. Otherwise businesses, charities and even local estate agents would have given up sending them out a long time ago.

The aim of every marketer, of course, is to get their list as near perfect as they can, so that they’re targeting people who are genuinely interested and minimising their printing and postage costs. But despite huge advances in segmentation and computerised databases, this remains a bit of a pipedream. That’s why there’s a recognition that the vast majority of mailers will find their way into the rubbish. Response rates to cold mailings can be as low as 1%. But that 1% response provides enough return on investment to make the exercise profitable.

And this, of course, is one of the big problems with the online junk that we call spam. Although virtually no one replies, the cost of sending out hundreds of thousands of e-mails is practically nil. So it only takes a handful of Viagra purchases to leave the spammer quids in.

Mr Ranger apparently hopes that his junk mail mountain can be turned into some kind of Turner Prize winning installation. Its originators no doubt saw it as a work of art when they first mailed it.

© Phil Woodford, 2004. All rights reserved.

Phil Woodford is a creative director at a London-based advertising agency and a lecturer in advertising theory. www.philwoodford.com

Read the original press report at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/3389777.stm