ANA Annual Meeting 2012

Beleaguered Postal Service Looks To Ad Industry For Help

Postal Official Plugs Branded Stamps, Other New Business Services At ANA

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With its financial woes mounting, the U.S. Postal Service on Saturday sought a lifeline from the ad industry, plugging a plethora of business-targeted services such as branded stamps and a new discount for marketers who pair paper mail with digital campaigns.

"We need to help the industry, help the marketers, do more interactive mail to really get people engaged back with the mail," David Mastervich, the postal service's manager for catalogs and saturation mail, said in a presentation at the Association of National Advertisers annual meeting in Orlando, Fla. "We think of mail as the platform to launch your digital campaigns."

That was quite a change of pace at a conference dominated by talk of social media and mobile marketing. The USPS is hoping to link itself to the rising popularity of such high-tech ventures by offering discounts to marketers that integrate digital marketing, such as quick-response codes, in direct-mail pieces. "We are going to run campaigns every two months for different types of technology," Mr. Mastervich said.

The agency also recently launched a branded stamps program in which marketers can use corporate images in the place of traditional stamps. Chrysler recently tested the program, Mr. Mastervich said in an interview. "They put their new cars in the postage." The moves come as the agency bleeds red in the face of declining use by regular consumers, who have increasingly turned to electronic alternatives such as online bill paying. Cost-cutting proposals include ending Saturday delivery, which still must be approved by Congress.

At the same time, the USPS this week announced a one-cent hike in first-class mail stamps to 46 cents, taking effect on Jan. 27. Meanwhile, Tech Crunch reported that postal officials are launching an experimental same-day delivery service called Metro Post that is aimed at e-commerce companies.

The USPS made a big investment in this year's ANA, showing that it is increasingly looking for marketers to help dig it out of its cash hole. It was one of 12 ANA "strategic partners," putting it in the same sponsorship class as companies such as Microsoft, Google, Starcom Mediavest Group and Meredith . The partnership included a sponsorship of Saturday morning's convention breakfast. As attendees munched on scrambled eggs and yogurt parfaits, Mr. Mastervich plugged what he described as the "emotional" benefits of mail marketing.

"Humans like to hold things in their hand," he said. "When you're reading hard copy as a human there's a lot of parts of the brain that go off that are emotional; you are connected to what you are doing," he said, citing a Millward Brown study. But when people read things online, "there's this little spot [in the brain] that says 'this is fleeting', " he said.

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