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Like most Americans, there has been something missing from my mailbox for months now – countless credit card solicitations. Most of us in the direct marketing industry already know the reasons why by heart : rising mail costs, attractive digital alternatives, oh, and let's not forget the financial industry's meltdown. Making it no surprise that market research firm Synovate reported US households received 67% less credit card offers in the second quarter of 2009 compared the same period in 2008.

I was surprised, however, when I reached inside my mailbox the other day and mixed in among the usual bills, catalogs and magazines, I came across an envelope from Capital One. “What's this?” I asked myself. Curious, I opened the envelope -- instead of immediately throwing it away like I would have 12 months ago -- and discovered….an invitation to sign up for a credit card. Really, I should have known what to expect, don't you think?

However, I would bet that Capitol One is banking on enough other consumers experiencing the same surprise that I did and opening their envelopes to make it worth the cost of mailing more.

Anecdotally, I've heard from several large direct marketers that they have renewed interest in mail – or never lost their interest – because so many others have dropped out of the game. Because there is less unwanted mail in consumers' mailboxes these days, it makes the few advertising pieces they do receive standout, which is a good thing for some marketers.

I wonder how long my mailbox will remain tidy and uncluttered  if all of the credit card companies jump back into direct mail?

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