of 3.1 billion items, reflecting a spend of £1.6bn - 9% up on 1998. The latest report from media monitoring specialist ACNielsen MMS shows that the average British household received 14 items of direct mail each month.

Direct mail to consumers now accounts for 17% of all UK ad spend - more than the combined revenues of cinema, radio and outdoor advertising. If business-to-business mail (approx. annual value £500m) is in-cluded, total direct mail spend equates to around two-thirds of press or TV revenues. It is also growing twice as fast as TV advertising.

Over 4,000 different companies mailed UK households in 1999. Fifteen per cent of these were financial services firms, accounting for 36% of all mailed items and 33% of spend; other major sectors were mail or-der (16%), publishers (13%), credit card issuers (12%), charities (9%) and 'other financial institutions' (22%). All market sectors bar four spent more in 1999 than the previous year. The exceptions were gardening, leisure and entertainment, retail, and specific financial products (mortgages, personal loans and pensions).