For a few years now I have been writing about unsolicited marketing materials landing in your traditional mailbox and how the tides of environmental change will eventually outlaw this practice. Casting my mind back to 2004, I remember arriving in Sydney and actually being quite shocked at how much of this junk was floated around the streets.
My arrival in Bondi Beach a year later was greeted with phone books stacked outside of my apartment block only to see weeks later the stack still standing, until eventually they were tossed in the bin. Today the splurge of these books in multiple formats continues to amaze me.
Now in the USA, San Francisco may be the first city to make a move to ban these books altogether. Let’s examine their reasoning. According to greenbiz.com local councils across the USA spend approximately $54 million a year to dispose of the books and another $9 million to recycle them. If this is true then their is not only an environmental reason but also an economical reason and when you combine these two you know action will eventually be taken.
In Australia there is a powerful lobby behind keeping unsolicited mail running with the usual line about how they are the lifeblood of small businesses, however with enough notice I am sure they can find better ways to get their message out and local online directories seem to an area that could cover this.
I have also spoken about how digital television could also reshape the advertising markets with local TV ads being delivered for specific area making it very affordable and another reason why James Packer is a thicky for getting rid of his interests in Nine.
The Yellow Pages in the USA have an opt out website where you can opt out of receiving them. I tried this in Australia and it took forever on a phone to finally opt out, yet I still kept receiving them – hardly self regulation at its best.
According to statistics “nearly 70% of adults in the United States ‘rarely or never’ use the phone book, and instead opt to use the Web-based search tools. I would guess the stats would be nearly exactly the same in Australia.
So now we have three very big reasons why the Yellow Pages cannot survive. Environmental and Economical for both the governments associated with real costs and businesses who are moving away from advertising in droves. Yellow Pages staff have posted some information here that cannot be backed up by any facts and figures, I am sure they have done their own internal polling of usage, and I am equally sure that will never see the light of day. Their big problem is they were slow to move in on the online world and now they are not even remotely as successful online as they should be. So they will cling to the past in the hope that they can wring some more dollars out of the few businesses that still enjoy some success from their services.
I can assure you a ban will not be effective for one company, that would not be fair, but unsolicited mail of any kind is on life support systems and agents are going to have to find better and more innovative ways to get their messages across.
If you are into mass mail marketing or letterbox drops, my opinion is that you should start now. Create a local market report that gets sent out to your local community and trial it for one year, where all in the community can read the report, go online and register to receive the same by electronic means. Annually you should also create a report across the board with a years worth of stats that looks cool, has a calendar attached and can be stuck on a fridge.
Subtle marketing works so much better than most of the in your face ‘I am awesome’ trash anyway.