Website on Anthrax and Direct Mail Shuttered

As Contamination of Mail Spreads Site Rendered Irrelevant

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See Full Coverage: ANTHRAX AND THE MARKETING BUSINESS

CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- As evidence that the anthrax crisis is evolving minute-by-minute, Devon Direct Euro RSCG, Berwyn, Pa., has suspended registration on the Web site it planned to launch last week to help ease consumers' anxiety about mail.

The Web site, www.whatsmailing.org, which was intended as an online registry of marketers' mail campaigns, halted registration last week when public officials stated that anthrax could be contaminating postal equipment and therefore put mail -- even if it doesn't contain anthrax spores -- at risk.

The site would have enabled consumers to log on and search by brand for a photo and description of a mailing that was sent.

Loose spores
"At the time we conceptualized and decided to develop and launch the site, it was felt, with the information we were getting from the government, that what was known at the time about anthrax was that it was getting transmitted in the envelope," Ron Greene, CEO of Devon, a Havas Advertising-owned Euro RSCG Marketing Services agency, told AdAge.com. "We started learning that the anthrax spores could potentially come out of an envelope, could adhere to postal sorting equipment and could potentially contaminate environments.

"Given that new information, a direct mailing could potentially get contaminated on its journey to recipients, and the whatsmailing.org site's value was really quite questionable," Mr. Greene added.

The future of the site is unclear, given the uncertainty surrounding the anthrax scare, Mr. Greene said, adding that Devon will assess the site's value as more information comes out.

"I think every day that passes we learn more about the potential anthrax scare, and I think there is a short-term danger," he said. "It seems to me, from what we're being told, that commercial mail could be contaminated along the way."

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