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November 2009
Print in the Mix

USPS Study Measures Advertising Mail Use and Attitudes

The annual “Household Diary” study, performed since 1987 by the U.S. Postal Service, provides a consistent look at households’ attitudes toward mail received.

Contrary to the image that direct mail is “junk mail” and is tossed without consideration, a majority of respondents report paying attention to the advertising they receive, either reading it or scanning it. In addition, one of three households said that they made one or more purchases thanks to the advertising mail they received.

Some of the top findings:

• Advertising mail represented 63 percent of all mail received by households in 2008. Since 1999, the direct mail share has risen steadily, reaching 22 percent in 2008. Direct mail has maintained its large ad share, even with the introduction of fast-growing ad markets such as the Internet.

• Eight of 10 households (79 percent) say they either read or scan the advertising mail sent to their homes.

• Household behavior toward reading advertising mail is largely independent of how much advertising mail the household receives.

• The amount of advertising mail received is closely tied to income, education and age. Households with incomes more than $100,000, and with a head of household age 55 and older, received the greatest number of advertising mail pieces at 27.8 pieces per week.

• Despite the attention paid to online and e-mail advertising, households with Internet access receive more advertising mail than those without access. This is reflective of household characteristics such as income and education—Internet access is closely tied to income and education.

• More than one of five households surveyed reported making a purchase because of advertising mail received—some made multiple purchases as shown below.

Purchases Resulting From Advertising Mail Received in Previous Month
(% of Households)

# of Purchases | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007 |2008

1       12% | 11% | 11% | 12% | 12%
2         6% |  6% |   7% |   5% |   9%
3-5      4% |  4% |   5% |   4% |   8%
6         1% |  1% |   1% |   1% |   2%
Total  23% | 22% | 24% | 22% | 31%

To read this Print in the Mix Fast Fact and additional print market research studies, go to Print in the Mix is a free and easily accessible clearinghouse of research on print media effectiveness, published by the Printing Industry Center at RIT and made possible by a grant from The Print Council (
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