Argentina Introduces New Postal Code System

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BUENOS AIRES - Argentina on March 14 will launch a new eight digit postal code based on the Canadian model with its combination of numbers and letters.

Bulk mailers who use the new code in combination with standardized address structure and envelope size will get a substantial price break, said Marcel Avargues, the Argentine Post's marketing manager.

Development of the code took more than five years and predates the privatization of Correo Argentino last year.

"We started to talk and consult with the most developed countries - the US, Britain, France and others - to see what would be the best resolution, and picked Canada," Avargues explained.

The new code, he added, will afford mailers "a very fine division of the country" because it goes down to the block level. "It's a unique concept, independent of postal delivery, that gives a physical description of the territory," he said.

"We won't have to change the code because no matter what the real estate development the street block division won't change. The code will stay forever."

Average Argentineans won't notice the changeover since the new code will coexist with the code currently used for the next four to five years, and because the current four numbers will be maintained.

The first letter will identify the province, then come the numbers in the current code, and three letters defining the block and the street will come at the end.

"We have started to work closely with major mailers to help prepare for the changeover. Some leg work in terms of systems, database design and management still needs to be done," Avargues stated.

In addition to the code, the post office is preparing a new directory of all streets and roads in the country, a reference work that has never existed in Argentina.

This will enable mailers to restructure and convert their address files and vastly improve the country's list hygiene, which has always been suspect.

But the new code will go far beyond simple postal distribution. "It will clearly locate and fix city blocks with all the potential data analysis which that provides to marketers," he said. "Such things as geo-demographic segmentation and statistical analysis based on socio-demographic variables will now be made on the basis of postal codes and thus create a link between postal segmentation and socio-demographic analysis."

The shift in postal codes has aroused wide interest in Argentine business, Avargues said, with the census bureau and all market research and market analysis companies eager to use the new codes to speed their work.

In another development related to Argentine efforts to spruce up postal services and make them profitable, Correo Argentino, which is now run under a 30-year license by the $3 billion industrial combine SOCMA, has launched a joint venture with the US Moore Corp.

Technology from Moore will be used to receive electronic data and mail pieces that will be printed and inserted separately from any other mailing.

"This is a totally variable kind of production - variable imaging really - that is directed by Moore software," Avargues said. "This adds technology to the Argentine market that simply didn't exist before."

The electronic printing unit will be located "next to our sorting plant beginning in April and will give users a chance to send data from day one. We'll be able to deliver to recipients across the country in three days."

Given Argentina's vast size - it spans almost the entire length of South America - that is a sizeable reduction. Delivery times in Buenos Aires will be much shorter - within a 24-hour range.

Correo Argentino has finalized a Global Postal Link agreement with USPS. Several US catalogers have used the service to test the Argentine market. Avargues would not name the firms involved.

But Avargues added that Argentina had "a void of large catalogs," a function of years of hyper-inflation through the early 1990s, and was eager to attract more foreign catalogers.

"We're actively talking to many of them because catalogers will be an important vector for using more direct marketing in this country," he said.

Finally, Correo Argentino is working closely with the Argentine DMA in "relaunching and improving the use of the mail preference service," he said. "We consider MPS a key part of our ethical strategy towards the public."

MPS has existed in Argentina for several years but has been low key because the DMA lacked the resources to push the service with the public.

"Correo Argentino didn't help much until we came aboard a year ago, increased our links with the DMA and started helping them administer that service," Avargues said. n

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