The British media might have escaped Leveson 2 but for the direct marketing industry there is simply no respite from the worst excesses of the press, following another round of “shock horror, junk mail is back” stories from newspapers which love nothing more than to bash the sector while simultaneously using direct marketing to shore up their flagging sales.
In a move as predictable as a pantomime – and just as farcical – the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail have claimed that GDPR will trigger both a “bombardment” and “deluge” of unwanted mailings, as “Royal Mail prepares to capitalise on the data crackdown”.
The Telegraph expressed horror at the fact that “in recent weeks Royal Mail has sent out pamphlets reminding businesses ‘don’t forget the power of unaddressed mail’ as a way to contact people without needing their personal data”.
It went on to quote Ian Murray, Labour MP for Edinburgh South, who said: “I think the public would be surprised that as a result of tighter and more up-to-date data protection laws they receive even more unwanted junk mail. Individual businesses will determine if this kind of blanket junk mail marketing works but I’m sure most consumers would see it as an unwanted waste of paper.”
Meanwhile, the Daily Mail warned: “Some families could receive up to seven unaddressed leaflets per day from Royal Mail alone and the regulator, the Information Commissioner’s Office, would not be able to do anything about it.”
However, a spokesman for Royal Mail was quick to point out that “targeted door-to-door mailings help to underpin the Universal Service. They provide a very valuable service to companies of all kinds as they seek to provide their goods and services”.
He added: “We are committed to giving households control over the unaddressed mail they receive so that they can make an informed choice. Royal Mail runs a door-to-door opt-out scheme for unaddressed mail if customers want to stop receiving unaddressed mail.”
What both papers fail to mention is that they run extensive “unaddressed” insert programmes themselves, which provide much-needed income. Telegraph Media Group signed a deal with Whistl’s door-drop division in 2014 and offers postcode targeted marketing campaigns, including consumer packs, magazine distribution and in-home sampling.
The paper describes the scheme as allowing “significantly greater audience engagement and an audience that is not constrained by circulation or print run”.
The Daily Mail’s commercial team, meanwhile, promotes its own inserts and sampling programme – available in Weekend Magazine, The Mail on Sunday and YOU Magazine for up to £52 per thousand. It states: “Inserts are a high impact and versatile medium and can create huge engagement within our portfolio. Use of exuberant colours and tantalising textures all add to the impact of inserts, and we offer a variety of creative capabilities.”
One industry source said: “It is rather ironic that in the same week the Government hailed the demise of Leveson 2 as a great victory for a free and fair press, the Mail and Telegraph peddle out the same old nonsense. ‘Junk mail’ headlines might sell newspapers, but it is direct marketing that really funds them.”
However, not everyone is critical of the reports. Writing for Decision Marketing, W8Data managing director Will Anthes said: “For once I find myself agreeing with the Daily Mail. The ethos of GDPR will be entirely undermined if some marketers attempt to circumnavigate the new directive and find ways to ‘bombard’ consumers with unwanted marketing collateral.”
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