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Economics & Research Blog

Do Not Mail Law Proposed in Many States


By Dr. Joe Webb
Published: March 12, 2007

Today's Advertising Age e-mail newsletter had an article titled "Do-Not-Mail Movement Gains Traction in State Legislatures."

The article details that "More than a dozen states are considering do-not-mail lists. If passed, residents from Hawaii to Colorado, Maryland to New York and Texas to Washington state will be able to sign up for a list and be free of 'junk mail' forever."

Needless to say, this would be bad for the printing business, but most of all it would be bad for consumers. While this is not likely to happen, it is worth considering what the effects will be. I will discuss this more in next week's column, I can detail some of the possible effects. First, like the do-not call registry, non-profits and political organizations would be exempted.

It's always strange how political organizations and institutions exempt themselves from various restrictions that businesses must deal with. Second, the argument will be made that there are substitutes. Remember, electronic media also have had legislative attacks, like CAN-SPAM (which basically created the ground rules while spammers quickly learned to get around, since spam volume is up significantly), but there are others coming, such as restrictions on text messaging.

Pop-up ads are generally blocked by most Internet browsers. Banner ads have had decreasing effects except when targeted well; yes, online mass merchandising may already be dead.

Except for search advertising and search engine optimization, outbound e-marketing may actually suffer. If you can't use direct mail to build your e-commerce business, and especially your CAN-SPAM compliant opt-in lists, other methods are not particularly good substitutes.

Third, this will be a boon to offline media. Promotions, event sponsorships, in-store displays, signage, and other methods would get a boost from a direct-mail clampdown. More in next week's column...

Dr. Joe Webb is one of the graphic arts industry's best-known consultants, forecasters, and commentators. He is the director of WhatTheyThink's Economics and Research Center.



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