The "Stampers" campaign from FCB Direct, New York, is aimed at kids ages 8 to 12, and includes print ads and a TV spot breaking later in October.
In addition, the postal service will distribute a Stampers magazine, collectors cards and educational collateral materials published with partners including Scholastic Inc. in 30,000 post offices and 40,000 schools.
Database management company Neodata is involved in those and other aspects of the program, which emphasizes that stamp collecting is cool and encourages children and their parents to collect and study stamps.
$200 MIL ANNUAL SALES
The postal service's collectible-stamps program brings in about $200 million annually, said Valoree Vargo, manager-stamp and product marketing.
But collectors tend to be a graying group. Research indicates the majority of U.S. stamp collectors are now senior citizens, and the number of children involved has declined sharply during the past four decades.
It's a big market both for casual and serious collectors, though: The highest-grossing stamp series issued, depicting Elvis Presley, has brought the postal service $38 million, much of it from collectors.
"If you don't introduce them to stamp collecting between 8 and 12, it's not likely they'll keep up the habit when they start their own families," Ms. Vargo said.
While a campaign budget could not be confirmed, the postal service spent heavily overall during the first six months of 1996. Through June 30, it poured $64.2 million into measured media, according to Competitive Media Reporting. For all of 1995, the service spent $59.9 million.
In direct response, CMR reports, the postal service spent $742,000 during the first six months of 1996, and a total of $606,000 in '95.
Neodata worked with the postal service earlier this year on two trials for "Stampers" in Albuquerque, N.M., and Las Vegas, communities with the highest percentage of new post offices.
The tests yielded a 6% response, said Francie Anhut, Neodata senior VP-strategic marketing.