USPS TARGETS COUPONS TO CHANGE-OF-ADDRESS SET: TMSI ASSISTS POSTAL SERVICE WITH BIG PUSH INTO DIRECT MAIL

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The U.S. Postal Service will begin annual mailings to about 19 million people who change addresses, sending them a packet stuffed with coupons, ads-and, eventually, samples-from national and regional marketers.

The new "change-of-address confirmation" is the postal service's biggest step yet into the direct mail industry. It will be produced by TMSI, which has been behind the "Mover's Guide," a smaller-scale change-of-address packet available at post offices.

The new packet will be mailed first class to every individual who submits a change-of-address card.

SPRINT, ACE IN FIRST PACKET

The first packets, mailed this month, include an ad from Sprint, coupons for several Clorox Co. products, an ad from Primestar and one from Ace Hardware Corp. with the address of the nearest local store.

For the postal service, the switch represents a major cost savings and the possibility of additional revenue as well.

"We spend $10 million or more a year on the move letters," said a postal service spokeswoman, noting the packet will replace one of the two letters (one to the old address and the other to the new address) the postal service sends to those moving. "It helps reduce the operational cost."

She said the postal service tested the packets last year in five states and consumers were pleased with the results.

TMSI will take over the cost of mailings in return for getting most of the ad revenue. Addressing privacy concerns, the postal service said it will not turn over addresses to TMSI, and that letters will be printed in secure sites.

TMSI, formerly called Targeted Marketing Solutions Inc., will still produce the "Mover's Guide" for the postal service as well as a new Web site called MoversNet (http://www.ups.gov/moversnet).

POSTAL SERVICE RAPPED

The postal service's award of the program to TMSI doesn't please competing mailers whose moving lists take longer to develop.

"You hate to dump on the first person in the postal service who is trying to cut costs, but what a way to pick" to cut costs, said Joe Lubenow, VP-postal affairs for Metromail Corp.

Mr. Lubenow said Metromail does its own mailings and also is licensed to perform merge and purge services for marketers on private company mailing lists using the postal service change-of-address information files. Now, though the postal service bars Metromail from creating its own mailing lists from the postal change-of-address files, it will be competing with a company that can mail to the list.

"The question now is, `Is this fair?' " Mr. Lubenow said.

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