The £500 Million Transpromo Opportunity: But Make Sure Your Message Lands in the Right Mailbox


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A friend of mine recently received a statement from his energy supplier, which featured a personalized advertising message. He was suitably impressed and, knowing I work in the direct communications business, told me so. Obviously, I agreed that this emerging advertising channel was a good way of getting messages across to customers. I then asked him if he ever received bills or statements addressed to other people. He said, “No,” but his daughter, who had moved into a new flat a year ago, was still receiving bank statements for the previous owner. As I told him, advertising on bills and statements will work effectively only if customer data standards are significantly improved.

Advertising on bills and statements is on the rise and is poised for meteoric growth, according to various analysts. The notion of using bills, statements and other statutory customer correspondence as an advertising medium has gained much currency over the last three or four years. The process has even been granted its own special name—”transpromotional” or “transpromo”—by research organizations. InfoTrends projects a 91 percent growth rate for full-color transpromo printing, rising to more than 21 billion images by 2010

Two-fifths of the U.K. population have received bills or statements addressed to the wrong person in the last six months.

Transpromo has taken hold; it is being successfully performed by a range of pioneer organizations. Analysts say we’re seeing only the beginning of a period of explosive growth. So we need to pay attention to any factors that might hinder its development.

The theoretical economics of transpromo all stack up. For instance, postage costs can be eliminated or reduced by putting advertising in the same envelope (depending on whether the additional contents exceed postal weight and size breaks). And because consumers devote great attention to their bills and statements, accompanying advertising is a great way to piggy-back this high-attention moment. Group 1 Software found that response rates to transpromo adverts are comparable with solus direct mail campaigns, so long as a targeted message in the transpromo white space is combined with an appropriate leaflet.

However, all this falls flat on its face if data quality issues are not properly handled. While people are extremely responsive to well targeted, appropriate sales messages, they are equally put off if an organization they buy from either cannot get their details correct or, even worse, sends bills or statements to someone who is no longer living at the address or who has died. If there is an element of garbage in the input data, then there will be an equal level in the output.

Security concerns

Consumers tolerate misdirected direct mail to a certain extent. But when an essential item bill or statement is misdirected, people experience a dramatic loss of confidence in the company. And they rightly worry about the security of their personal data.

One of our clients, the wealth management arm of a major high street bank, was sending poorly presented fund statements to its 15,000 clients on a twice-yearly basis. As part of a customer satisfaction, loyalty and development drive, the organization decided to revolutionize the statements. It performed an analysis of client records, which revealed major problems with address and postcode accuracy (itself a major regulatory compliance issue). It then cleaned its data inexpensively and with a five-day turnaround through a bureau and updated it to ensure that all client records could be used as the basis for analysis and profile appending.

The statement format was completely redesigned as a variable-color document, which could accommodate—on the fly—reporting for clients with investments in just one fund just as easily as a client with investments in 10 funds. Tens of thousands of tons of paper were thereby eliminated from each statement run. At the same time, enhanced profiles (where lifestyle data had been appended to each record) were used to understand which of the bank’s other products could be offered appropriately to each client. Personalized advertisements for these appropriate products were added to each individual statement. The result was a 5 percent response rate for these additional product offers, all with virtually no cost to the campaign, as it was piggy-backed on the client statement.

As an advertising medium, transpromo is substantial, valued at some £500 million in the United Kingdom alone. Moreover, the attention span commanded by these transactional documents is considerably higher than solus direct mail. Transpromo is in no position to replace direct marketing and other advertising activity, but it does represent a largely unexploited advertising opportunity.

If transpromo is to be effectively exploited, however, there needs to be an improvement in customer data standards. Two-fifths of the U.K. population have received bills or statements addressed to the wrong person in the last six months, a factor which—if not addressed—could seriously undermine consumer attitudes to advertising carried with, and on, those documents.

Plenty of commercial services are available to correct and update people’s details when they move house or die. Indeed, best-practice companies also carefully capture information from returned mail to identify movers and the deceased as early as possible. Not to do so at the least creates annoyance and, at worst, real distress. The opportunities presented by transpromo are probably very considerable. But their effective use requires businesses to make significant enhancements to the way they manage and update customer records.

Yolanda Noble
dsicmm Ltd
Yolanda Noble is CEO of dsicmm. She has more than 25 years of experience in the print and mail industry and has owned and managed her own businesses since 1989. Most recently, her company, CMM Group, merged with dsi Group to form dsicmm Ltd, the United Kingdom's largest independently owned direct communications organization.


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