Editorial: Field of Dreams

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Robert E. Eide of St. Paul, MN, says I need a hug. In a letter about my recent stance questioning the U.S. Postal Service's $25 million sponsorship of Lance Armstrong and the U.S. Cycling Team, Eide wrote, "I saw Lance (the postal logo) and the postal service team mentioned daily in virtually every newspaper, national news and sports show in the country. I would guess that kind of publicity would cost a lot more than what the USPS is paying. But somehow you seem not to understand this. I think someone needs a hug."

No, I don't need a hug. I need someone to tell me how many extra stamps the USPS sold because of this sponsorship. I need to know why its officials are comparing "how a bike team achieves victory [to] how the postal service is able to meet its challenges." For those who say the USPS is not a monopoly because of ground and overnight competition from UPS and FedEx, then I say it should have used Priority Mail or Express Mail as the sponsor. A week ago, CMGI (which lost more money than the USPS last year) decided it needed money more than it needed a stadium name. I'm surprised the postal service didn't snatch it up. It must have been hard to pass up USPS Field.

Deputy postmaster general John Nolan told Mailers Technical Advisory Committee attendees last week that postal officials are shying away from television advertising and focusing on direct mail to promote their services. At least that decision makes sense. This way, they can convey the proper message to the proper audience. Maybe someone there is starting to understand things.

Up in Smoke

Why does the world need a cigarette machine with a video screen and a cast of virtual characters pushing one brand over another? Brown & Williamson is testing such contraptions in Cleveland and Los Angeles. The machines are stocked with cigarettes from several vendors, but one of five characters pops up to promote B&W's Kools and Lucky Strikes. The machines collect information about customers and the brands they buy, but they don't record names and B&W says it won't put smokers on a mailing list. "Is that your girlfriend?" asks one character. "Oh, she's not. Then move out of the way, man. I'm tryin' to look." ... I'm so glad I don't smoke.


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