USPS launches another aggressive volley of ads

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The U.S. Postal Service is unwrapping a new round of aggressive advertising for its Priority Mail, again targeting rivals Federal Express Corp. and United Parcel Service of America.

It comes five months after a price-comparison campaign got FedEx angry enough to launch nasty radio spots against the postal service, plus a lawsuit and a complaint lodged with the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

TARGETING BUSINESS MAILERS

The new USPS effort, through direct mail, newspaper and radio, is aimed at business mailers.

"Now that UPS and FedEx have announced rate increases, we have an announcement of our own," reads one of three mailers being sent to 300,000 business owners. "Priority Mail is still only $3. . . . While UPS and FedEx were busy raising their rates, we kept ours the same."

A print ad to run next month in USA Today and The Wall Street Journal pictures newspaper articles about price hikes FedEx and UPS enacted in February, with a headline, "You just got a raise you didn't want."

Foote, Cone & Belding, New York, is the agency.

"It is fair to say we are continuing our positioning of Priority Mail as a good value with reliable service," said L. Kim Parks, program manager-corporate advertising marketing. "The audience for our message is more business-targeted."

CERTAIN TO VEX FEDEX

The latest ads are certain to infuriate FedEx. Though both UPS and FedEx imposed fuel surcharges starting in February, in November 1996 FedEx lowered the price of its two day-letter by a third after enduring eight months of the postal service's price comparison barrages.

FedEx argued to NAD unsuccessfully to get the ads stopped; its lawsuit that the comparison ads were unfair is still pending.

The postal service, which saw double-digit revenue growth last year in part through backing Priority Mail with more than $90 million in ads, is carrying forward the main competitive message in new TV and print advertising as well.

In messages aimed more directly at people who decide which mail service to use, USPS is also providing a special tax-time message.

`60% SAVINGS BRACKET'

"Introducing the 60% savings bracket," reads a print ad that suggests sending two-to-three-day packages via Priority Mail represents a 60% savings vs. FedEx.

Another piece in the direct mail effort going to business owners says of Priority Mail, "It may be the only 60% deduction that hasn't been outlawed."

The ads are part of a broad integrated attack that also includes letters from postal officials to CEOs and mailings of information to other corporate officials.

Postal officials said they want to drive home the main cost differences with the public, but feel they have more specific messages they can tailor to individual mailers--such as insurance companies and catalog houses--that are best handled through direct marketing.

Copyright March 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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