USPS Feels DMers' Pain in Campaign

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The U.S. Postal Service is seeing a 2.6 percent response rate from a direct mail campaign started in June to help direct mail marketers in their struggle to sell the concept to their constituents.

Despite reaching out more to the marketplace in the past few years, the postal service has focused on ad agencies and advertisers in big companies, said Rod DeVar, USPS national manager of advertising and promotions.

"We had stayed away from people in the direct marketing industry because we felt we needed to influence, change minds and create a presence in the mind of the advertiser and the agency about how direct mail could fit into their communications mix," he said.

But with the USPS developing research as well as new services and other tools useful for mail marketers, the postal service needed to expand the audience to these direct marketing professionals, he said.

So the agency began an irreverent campaign called "OutSmart The Office." It puts the USPS in the shoes of direct mail marketers who speak to constituents, each of whom has a different point of view: "The guy responsible for the Internet believes the Internet can do everything that mail can do," Mr. DeVar said. "A wall goes up with the cyber guys."

This also can happen with creatives, media buyers and even financial people, he said.

"Direct marketers always have a challenge in trying to convince the people that are making decisions on communications," he said. The campaign aims "to let DMers know the uphill battle you are fighting out there, and here are some tools to help you fight the battle."

A bright orange oversized self-mailer went to 200,000 prospects in early June. Names and addresses were gleaned from purchased lists. The outside of the mailer read "The Direct Marketer's inside guide to Outsmart The Office," along with a smiling caricature of an office worker.

Inside, the character appears, offering a knowing wink, alongside this copy: "Here at the U.S. Postal Service, we understand the struggles you go through -- day in, day out -- defending a media channel that's smart, innovative and hardworking yet somehow often overlooked. That's why we are about to change that."

The message explains that the USPS has collected the latest research about consumers and how they use their mail. This information lets the recipient "impress an office culture that just doesn't seem to appreciate or understand the power of Direct Mail."

The mail piece also directs respondents to the enclosed file-cabinet magnets featuring the characters "Cyber Kyle," "Derec Creative" and "Mora Media." Each represents an individual a direct mail marketer often has to deal with, such as an Internet person, a creative person and a media buyer.

The mail piece encourages recipients to return an enclosed business reply card or go to www.usps.com/outsmarttheoffice to sign up for the "Direct Marketer's Outsmart The Office Kit" for free.

The kit, which is enclosed in an aluminum tin, includes additional character magnets, samples of postal products and white papers. The 2.6 percent response rate refers to people who requested the kit.

The campaign also includes a few months of print ads in direct marketing publications (including DM News), which began in June. The campaign was created by Campbell-Ewald, USPS advertising agency of record.

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