Opt-Out Direct Mail

Dutch MailboxesMarketers use the term “direct mail” to refer to marketing with physical mail (commonly known as “junk mail” to the recipients). In the US at least, the term “opt-out” is gaining ground as a recognized affirmative request not to receive marketing emails (commonly known as “spam”). Why not combine the two concepts and provide a way for people to opt-out of direct mail?
It’s already possible to request removal from marketers’ mailing lists, but the Dutch have created a standard system for opting out of all types of post box advertising. Each mailbox clearly announces the type of advertising that is acceptable. A “Nee – Nee” sticker means the resident does not want any advertisements and a “Nee – Ja” sticker indicates that only local newspapers are acceptable, but not flyers. I’ve never seen a “Ja – Ja” sticker, but I suppose that’s assumed when there is no sticker.
The stickers show the power of standardization. There is never any confusion over what types of advertisements are acceptable in a particular mailbox. Even a discretion-less machine would be able to apply the residents’ requests. Imagine the same system applied to email: an inbound message would have a machine-readable content indication. You could adjust which ads you receive by changing the preferences of your email client (no need for creative filtering based on content – and thus no more pen1s emails trying to game the filter). In practice, of course, such a system has yet to materialize.