USPS to Start DM Program Touting Reliability, Services

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The U.S. Postal Service begins a direct mail and e-mail marketing campaign at the end of September targeting small, medium and large businesses to promote the agency's reliability and expedited services.


It is part of an integrated, multimedia effort launched this week that includes displays in post offices, in print and on television, radio and billboard advertising.


For the first time in three years, the campaign does not feature the familiar eagle images and the "Fly Like an Eagle" theme. They are being replaced with the familiar blue mailbox and the theme "The U.S. Postal Service is everywhere so you can be anywhere."


In the initial newspaper ads and billboards, the mailbox appears in unexpected places, ranging from a soybean field to an icy Alaskan landscape to a fish-stocked stream.


"We looked at several ways to create a master-brand-type campaign based on an icon," said Larry Speakes, advertising manager at the USPS. "And the collection box -- what you see on the corner all across the country -- was deemed the most recognizable. ... And it also brings back a lot of good memories for people who told us it connotes safety, ubiquity, reach, reliability."


Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, is responsible for the ads. Burnett USA joined the USPS' agency roster in September 2000, assuming tasks that had been handled by Foote, Cone & Belding, New York, after a review that ended with the reshuffling of several assignments.


The mailbox idea will be adapted for use in campaigns created by other USPS agencies. They are: Foote, Cone, part of the FCB Group unit of Interpublic Group of Companies, responsible for direct marketing; A Partnership, New York, for ads aimed at Asian-Americans; the Bravo Group, New York, part of the Young & Rubicam division of the WPP Group, for ads aimed at Hispanic consumers; the Chisholm-Mingo Group, New York, for ads aimed at black consumers; Frankel, Chicago, part of the Publicis Group, the retail marketing agency; Beyond Interactive, New York, for media buying and direct e-mail marketing; MediaCom, New York, part of the MediaCom Worldwide division of Grey Global Group, for other media duties.


Though the campaign is extensive, the agency is spending less on advertising this year. The USPS advertising budget is just above $100 million; it was $140 million in the previous fiscal year.


This year, the USPS is targeting direct mail pieces more than ever.


"We have established some modeling and profiling, and we are using the information based on historical data to give us a better definition of the customer," said Tina Lance, manager of direct marketing.


Lance said the USPS has been using modeling techniques for the past three years but that this year's is the most extensive profiling and modeling program yet. For instance, customers in the retail industry will get a different direct mail piece from those in the financial industry. Though both will have the same graphic image, the creative message will differ.


Lance said the extensive targeting "will not mean we are sending less direct mail, however. From a targeted standpoint, the media reduction wasn't actually in the direct mail segment but in the mass advertising segment."


For example, the USPS will place more television ads on cable news channels, Sunday news shows on broadcast networks and business news programs, and more print advertising in business publications -- where decision makers will see them -- instead of traditional mass media.


"The belt-tightening in the advertising budget is why we're making absolutely certain this new campaign is highly targeted, hitting audiences like large, small and medium businesses," said Speakes, the former press secretary for President Reagan. "It is also a reason to focus on a specific icon that will be highly visible in all our work."


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