It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good.

So chorus Britain's direct marketeers as the nation’s direct mail volumes continue to soar while the slump in adspend has other media reaching for the red ink.

In tough times advertisers prefer a cost-effective medium like direct mail to less specifically measurable media – or so says the Royal Mail-funded Direct Mail Information Service whose role it is to promote the medium.

In the three months ended September 30, 1.1 billion pieces of direct mail fell through Britain's letterboxes, according to the DMIS. Of this Niagara, a growing volume is targeted at women – 7.3% up year-on-year – whereas mail sent to men rose by a meagre 0.4%.

The largest mailers by category were financial services, catalogues, travel, charities [non-profit] and leisure. Advertisers in the first category – such as Capital One, RBS Advanta and MBNA – dropped a record six hundred and eighty million mailing pieces on the nation’s doormats during the first nine months of 2001.

Over the same period advertisers in total spent £510m on direct mail, a year-on-year increase of 5.9%. This was accompanied by a 4.5% increase in mail volume.

Beamed Royal Mail managing director Adam Novak: “Direct marketing will increase by about 7% this year and some of it will be the result of stealing a substantial share of the ad market from other media.”

The RM has itself added to the erosion of domestic doormats by delivering a multipage questionnaire on consumer interests and direct mail preferences to each of the UK’s 24.3m households.

It is hoped that consumers will respond to this initiative in sufficient numbers to enable marketers to focus on those who wish to receive direct mail promoting specific product/interest categories and delete the disinterested from their lists.

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