DM industry agrees to opt-out overhaul

The direct mail industry has agreed to improve targeting and make it easier for consumers to opt-out of receiving direct mail, two of a raft of measures agreed with the government to reduce waste that it is hoped will ward off the threat of statutory regulation.

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A new opt-out system will replace what the government calls the “outdated” setup that offers consumers three options – the Mail Preference Service, the DMA’s door to door initiative and the Royal Mail equivalent – to stop addressed and unaddressed advertising mail.

Consumers, however, will still have to register twice on the site to stop both addressed and unaddressed mail. Industry estimates put current volumes of addressed direct mail at nine billion and unaddressed at 1.7 billion.

The industry, through the Direct Marketing Association, has also committed to increasing its use of suppression lists – which includes opt-out, do not contact and gone-away lists – by 25% over the next three years.

The commitments follow a “responsibility” deal with Defra intended to answer the criticism of environmental groups over the amount of “junk” mail sent. It is also hoped that the voluntary agreement will persuade the government that the DM industry is serious about reducing waste.

Alex Walsh, head of postal and environmental affairs at the DMA, says that the industry hopes its “proactive” approach will head off any lingering threat of statutory regulation that would lead to a damaging reduction in mail volumes.

He adds that reducing the amount of unwanted mail will also improve targeting and return on investment.

Environment secretary Caroline Spelman says the deal gives people “more control over what gets posted through their letterbox” as well making sure “the direct mail we do find useful is produced to higher standards and is fully recyclable”.

Other commitments include:

  • The DMA to ask members to produce all direct mail from recyclable paper that has originated from a certified sustainable source, or made from recycled paper.
  • The development of a carbon calculator for paper direct marketing material by the end of 2013 so that businesses can see the carbon footprint of the direct mail they produce.
  • 40% of all direct mail produced will have to conform to the requirements of a new industry environmental standard that will replace the BSI-endorsed waste standard PAS 2020.

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