WASHINGTON, DC: Good news and bad for America's mail marketing industry. The glad tidings are that half the nation's direct marketers say they intend to increase their mailing spend [WARC News: 24-Jan-07]. The bad news is that the anti-junk mail caucus is mushrooming among state legislatures.

According to Advertising Age, at least twelve states - ranging from Hawaii to Colorado, Maryland to New York and Texas to Washington state - are mulling the introduction of do-not-mail legislation.

Although none of the proposed bills have yet become law, the new Democratic majorities both in the Senate and the House of Representatives are politically inclined to favor such moves as mandatory mailing opt-out lists - similar to those that have hobbled the outbound telemarketing industry.

However, an intriguing paradox could be that such legislation would indirectly trigger an increase in the efficacy of mail marketing.

Nielsen BuzzMetrics cmo Peter Blackshaw recently told the AdAge Digital Marketing Conference that marketers will have to open their own doors and figure out ways to lure customers in.

"We've reached this perfect storm of consumer power and advertising intrusion," he said. "The inevitable outcome of marketers continuing their siesta of indifference or inaction is regulation, and I think the next election cycle - coupled with a Democratic-controlled Congress - is going to accelerate overtures for oversight."

Continued Blackshaw: "We need to think about advertising in a different context, and well beyond just paid media. Listening to consumers via consumer affairs is an easier, more effective way of advertising to consumers. Inviting consumers to participate in an online community is a more accepted form of 'opt-in' messaging."

"We need to become far better listeners, and that's hardly a pitch for what I do and sell," he said. "Smart listening will guide better strategy and ultimately guide us to the ad models that are sustainable and win-win in the eyes of consumers."

Communispace president/ceo Diane Hessan agreed: "Listening is a very underrated marketing strategy." She added that marketers would be better served if "we would all just shut up and listen."

Lending an ear to consumers and exploiting their views could well produce benign effects in the face of legal limitations on mailing volume by generating significantly higher response and conversion rates.

"It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good," as some medieval savant opined.

Data sourced from AdAge.com; additional content by WARC staff