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National Do-Not-Call List A Boom for Printers

October 2003
WASHINGTON, DC—Direct mail printing may be on the verge of a renaissance, thanks in part to the new national "do-not-call list." The result could prove to be a cash cow for many direct marketing printers.

"The Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) do-not-call registry presents an interesting challenge for marketers," says Tim Stratman, president of RR Donnelley Direct in Chicago. "In the short term, we anticipate that marketers will reevaluate their marketing mix and will rely on other communication vehicles, most likely direct mail."

Under the new law, telemarketers who call a listed household can be fined up to $11,000 for each violation. There are some calls that are exempt from the list. Telemarketing calls for charities, pollsters and on behalf of politicians are still acceptable.

Registered consumers can also give written permission to get calls from certain companies. A company may also call someone on the do-not-call list if that person has bought, leased or rented from the company within the past 18 months.

For most direct marketers, the aspect of their business most impacted by the new law is the cold call. "Consumers do not mind calls from businesses that they have an existing relationship, which is still permissible under the new law," notes Tom Wicka, executive vice president of sales and marketing for the Instant Web Companies in Chanhassen, MN. "What they do find offensive are the new solicitation calls that are often not targeted to them or relevant to their needs. Direct mail is not loud; it is not challenging or disrespectful."

For these and other reasons, printers may see an explosion in need for their ink-on-paper services. "Direct mail is the least intrusive form of marketing out there," Wicka asserts. "If you ask people if they like receiving junk mail, they say no. But if you ask them if they like getting targeted information designed specifically for them, then they are far more likely to say yes."

As a result, direct marketers are taking a look at how direct mail can be used to contact new consumers in a less intrusive manner, while still remaining within the bounds of the law. "All of a sudden, direct mail has a real shine and respect to it," Wicka adds. "And, it may trigger a boom for printers and mailers."

While some marketers will attempt to circumvent the new laws, most are retooling their strategies. Some marketers are shifting their efforts to traditional direct mail pieces. Others are developing sweepstakes campaigns that will enable them to contact the consumer by phone once a consumer participates in the sweepstakes. Participation in the sweepstakes acts as a written permission slip for the direct marketer to contact them again.

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