Mail Date Protection Is An Oxymoron

Published: March 26, 2010

Most list owners are not concerned about mail date protection, and rightfully so, because they know it does not affect the outcome of their mailings. Otherwise, cooperative databases with thousands of participants would not exist.

Mail date protection is an oxymoron. It gives list owners and other members of the direct marketing community a false sense of security. Notwithstanding, as our clients and fellow list brokers and managers are well aware and as is customary, we encourage strict adherence to mail dates in the best interests of all parties.

Here is a question for mailers: When was the last time your list broker independently confirmed that your offer was verified as in the mail on a specified date?

As a practical matter, mail dates cannot be protected because most advertising mail is sent via “Standard Mail.” The USPS does NOT guarantee delivery of standard mail, which some direct marketers refer to as either “Third Class” or “Bulk Mail.” No one, including the post office, can warrant that a specific commercial offer or fundraising appeal will enter the mail stream on a given day, due to the priority that the postal service gives to standard mail. To protect one’s “share of wallet,” the focus should be on “in-home” or “in-office” date.

It is well settled that sustaining donors maintain relationships with numerous organizations. Therefore, it is unreasonable to assume that they support just one appeal when their names can be found on multiple files as “interfile duplicates.” The fear of losing a donor as a by-product of a list rental or exchange is unfounded because donors can learn about competitive “endemic” appeals online or through other media such as mobile giving.

Direct marketers, it’s time to fess up. Mail dates cannot be protected, nor can in-home or in-office dates, for the reasons that I have cited above. I hasten to add that non-endemic appeals are approved on conflicting mail dates along with endemic appeals. I find it remarkable that no one is making an issue of this conflict for “share of wallet.”

Mail date protection is less common today because experienced list owners and mailers recognize that they are not the only fish in the sea when it comes to competing for the attention of the recipient and inciting action. Cooperation among mailers helps everyone to grow their house files and be more prosperous.

If decoys are received, that is not prima facie evidence that a mailing was sent on a denied mail date. The mailing may have been delayed at the post office or at a letter shop. It is totally unfair to penalize a mailer for missing a mail date when there are legitimate circumstances beyond the mailer’s knowledge or control. If the objective is to avoid conflicting offers arriving the same day, reliance on a specified mail date will not protect the list owner or the mailer.

In conclusion, it is impractical for list owners or mailers to rely upon mail date protection. It is a concept whose time has past. The post office does not guarantee delivery of standard mail, or that class of mail will go out on a certain day or that mail will be received on a particular day. If the objective is to avoid conflicting appeals (offers) arriving the same day, a so-called protected mail date will not suffice. We live in a wired world where information on thousands of non-profit organizations is ubiquitous and donors can pick and choose whom they wish to support in real-time.


About Acculist

AccuList USA® provides a broad spectrum of services to direct marketers and their agencies including consulting, list brokerage, list management, list enhancement, merge-purge, response analysis, campaign planning, graphic design, copywriting, printing, mailing, and predictive modeling services.

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Advertising Federation of the Desert (Desert AdFed)
Association of Fundraising Professionals
Direct Marketing Association – (National – List Leaders)
Direct Marketing Association Southern California (Charter member)
International Association Of Exhibitions and Events

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