Junk mail bombards affluent suburbs

WHEN PUSH COMES TO SHOVE: Flyers remain a cheap and cost-effective way to get the message across.
WHEN PUSH COMES TO SHOVE: Flyers remain a cheap and cost-effective way to get the message across.

Up to a kilo of junk mail is being shoved through letter boxes in Christchurch every week and industry experts say the amount is likely to grow, even though many retailers are now using email and the internet to push their products.

In an unscientific experiment The Press collected junk mail - or direct, or unaddressed, mail as the advertising industry prefers to call it - from several addresses across the city over a week-long period. The mail was then weighed to get a snapshot of the volume householders accumulated over a typical week.

The results show that some suburbs are more heavily bombarded with flyers, catalogues and free samples than others, with the total volume of junk mail received per household ranging from around half a kilo in less affluent suburbs to just over a kilo in some of the more affluent ones.

Dr Ekant Veer, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Canterbury, said the reason why Christchurch householders get so much junk mail is that it is a relatively cheap and effective way for companies to get their message out.

"With a 30-second TV add you can get one or two messages out there, but people switch off the TV and you don't know if it reaches them. With junk mail it gets into the house - it's been touched by someone and something on there might hit that person straight away and so something might stick. Once you get into the home, then you've got a better chance of engaging someone."

Veer said while companies might use TV, radio and social media to build their brand, direct mail was the most cost-effective way for them to get across lots of information to their customers.

"They use their TV or radio ad to build some sort of warmth and affection for the brand as a whole; they use their direct mail to try and sell."

Around 30 to 40 per cent of direct mail was kept or read compared with less than one per cent of online advertising material, so it was likely direct mail would continue to be heavily used as a marketing tool.

While some people did object to receiving it, many people loved it because it meant they could window shop from their own home.

"Direct mail is around to stay," Veer said.

Marketing Association public affairs director Keith Norris said despite the rise of digital offerings, direct mail usage had actually increased in recent years. It was popular because it worked, with many retailers attributing more than 30 per cent of their sales directly to their mailer and catalogue marketing.

Unaddressed mail was cost-effective, highly targeted and measurable. It had a consumer reach like no other media - up to 4.4 million people in just two days.

And recent research from Nielsen Media research showed that unaddressed mail was the preferred media for consumers in just about all shopping-related categories.

Historically unaddressed mail had been used by advertisers to generate foot traffic to their stores, but increasingly it was being used to drive traffic to advertisers' websites as well.

"Ultimately the physical catalogue will work in conjunction more and more with digital offerings as opposed to one being a straight replacement for the other," said Norris.

Recent new developments meant advertisers could now target catalogues extremely effectively, reducing wastage and increasing effectiveness.

If people did not want to receive unaddressed mail, a letterbox sign was the most effective way to stop it, as distributors were required under the Code of Practice for Distribution of Unaddressed Mail to honour mailbox stickers.

Green Party MP and spokeswoman on waste issues, Denise Roche, said huge volumes of paper were used each week producing junk mail and that did come at an environmental cost, but most junk mail was recyclable.

"If people want to do their bit to save the trees the best thing they could do is put a no-circulars sign on their letterbox," Roche said.

Another issue that needed to be addressed was the low remuneration those who delivered junk mail received. Often those making the deliveries were children who had been subcontracted to deliver the pamphlets and were paid a per piece rate which equated to far less than the minimum wage, Roche said.


When the junk mail arrives at the Spreydon home Sharla Drummond shares with her 12-year-old son Jaime Neale, it is a race to the letterbox.

The pair both enjoy poring over the seemingly endless stream of advertising material that arrives in the letterbox each day as it means they can hunt out the best bargains from the comfort of their living room.

"For me it's a bit like getting a free magazine," Drummond said.

"I make myself a cup of tea, sit down and have a bit of a rest while I read through them. I don't mind them at all."

Her son Jaime would often race her to the letterbox, she said.

"If there is mail out there he runs out to get it. He really loves looking through it, particularly the ones from The Warehouse.

"He gets quite a bit of pocket money but he likes to hunt out the bargains. He'll think and think about it until he gets a really good deal."

Drummond said that around Christmas time and Valentines Day the volume of junk mail got a bit excessive but she did not begrudge the retailers who advertise.

"You got to these days, don't you," she said.

The Press