Direct Mail Still Haunted by the J-Word

Double Cross Vodka encourages consumers to pull a "double cross" on "junk mail."

Summertime and the living is easy.

So I stopped by the local spirits shop for a bottle of pink Sancerre and I was greeted with a window display for Double Cross Vodka that included a tongue-in-cheek campaign called “Project Double Cross.” (See the image in the media player at right.)

Of course, the campaign’s creator had to get his digs on direct mail (somehow I assume “hardcore adult magazines” fascination is a male trait, though I could be wrong here) …

Well, I’m not a vodka drinker, but I’m happy to give a Slovakian import a little extra publicity here to make a point: Consumer activism against “junk mail” is a little self-defeating, even if this new brand is seeking to have a little fun. We all know direct mail provides consumers with choices, and is often used as a brand’s secret weapon for targeted marketing. Heck, the entire porn industry, ironically, was built on mail order. Even in 2012, you can be sure some folks in our advertising business still love to ridicule the medium.

The same day I was reading Advertising Age, the recognized voice of agencies and Madison Avenue, and I came across this coverage of a recent Negotiated Service Agreement (NSA) between Valassis Communications and the United States Postal Service, which gives Valassis preferred postal pricing in return for volume increase guarantees: “Postal Ruling Makes Junk Mail Cheaper.”

The newspaper business was taking its shot at criticizing the agreement, and the reporter—who accurately described Valassis as a direct mailer of coupons and circulars—matter-of-factly covered the story. (It’s very quaint in this digital age to see newspapers still set on duking it out with direct mail.)

Still it seems to me funny that the headline editor of a leading trade magazine for integrated marketing falls for the “junk mail” moniker so readily to describe direct mail. Plainly, in this case, direct mail’s power (and value) in circular advertising is its local targeting ability—precisely why newspaper publishers feel so threatened by the Valassis NSA. That doesn’t sound like junk to me, Advertising Age.

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  • Denny Hatch

    C’mon Chet, lighten up. Remember the late, great Bill Jayme who, when asked what he did, told folks that he wrote junk mail. “It’s the aristocrat of all advertising,” Bill said. “I spell it ‘junque’.” He went on to say: “People love the word ‘junk.’ Collectors love to frequent junk shops. Car aficionados love to prowl junk yards looking for parts. There was a time when investors loved junk bonds. Go to the beach and what to you take to read? Junk fiction. And all Chinese fishermen love their j***s.” Or can I look for a screed against the word “spam” because it is delicious fried up with an egg for breakfast and is the mainstay of Hormel’s business these days? Cheers. Denny Hatch.

  • http://Gerry Gerry

    If newspapers call direct mail junk, what would they call the 35 FSI’s they put in their papers every Sunday?

  • Gay Bitter

    Chet – I cringe every time I hear the J word too. As a former boss of mine said, if you’re targeting properly, it should not be junk!

  • Adam Scott

    Gay is right. If you take the time to properly target your audience, the level of acceptance and I dare say the appreciation for direct mail is much higher than that of other medium. Particularly email. This doesn’t take a lot of work to do either as is outline in this article:

  • christopherjanb

    Just my two cents: every marketing channel risks itself to substandard practice by misdirected marketers who try to please their sales instead of their audience. So to say that direct mail is still hounded by the J-word is similar to how some e-mail marketing campaigns can be borderline spam or door-to-door salesmen are annoying as hell. There will always be good and bad practices in the realm of marketing and all we can do is take the good in with the bad.