Enee, Menee, Minee, Moe: Regardless Of The Media, When You Hook 'Em Don't Let 'Em Go

On the floor to the left of the deck in my home office perches four, three-foot stacks of catalogues. No matter how I diminish its number, it is steadfast in its commitment to maintain a presence in my space. Reinforcements arrive daily. I feel powerless to ebb its flow. It has mocked me for years. My wife and I commiserate, agonizing over its arrogance. We plot the stack's demise. We've pleaded with postal officials, petitioned Attorneys General and sought out military tribunals. This past weekend we committed to battle.

Phone in hand, we contacted each publisher (40-plus siblings). Upon connection, we were routed through a maze of electronic questions ascertaining the reason for our query. Their skullduggery knew no bounds. Oftentimes there were upwards of nine selections (a series of multiple-tiered selections to respond to) before we could traverse to human contact. Upon arrival, all representatives were welcomingly inquisitive: "How can we help you?"



My wife and I would timidly proceed to explain how our New Year's Eve resolution this year was to save the trees. We were committed to shop online. And therefore we would like to be taken off their paper catalogue mailing list.

Of course, they understood. No muffled resentment. "A few questions, please, to help us accommodate your request":

"Zip code" (plus four)

"Customer #" (color coded: blue, yellow, pink)
longer pause
"Source code" (color coded: blue, yellow, pink)
"Last name" (as it appears on the magazine)
Is that your first or last name?"
Note: Oscar is always a challenge: first/last name ambidextrous nature
"First name" (as it appears on the magazine)
"Street address" (as it appears on the magazine)
longer pause
Note: the order of the questions varied by operator

Not once during our entire conversation did the operators ask if we would mind giving them our email address (since we volunteered our shopping online proclivity) in order to receive their electronic catalogues and special offers.

I think we face a similar situation in the interactive television world. Distribution platforms, whether they be cable, satellite, telco, are deploying interactive features in order to engage TV viewers. Advertisers and upsellers of TV programming and services (digital, premium, high definition, mobile, broadband) are desirous of the connective applications (telescoping, request for interaction, microsites, addressability, video on demand), and in most probability would be willing to pay incrementally as the advertising value proposition enhances their campaigns. Unfortunately, to date, the operators seem to be concentrating on deploying one application at a time and not in multiple iterations:

  • A TV viewer clicks on a video on demand channel but does not have the ability to telescope to a microsite, request product information or view additional video. 
  • Commercials can be addressed to individual households but are not laced with the ability to offer request for information applications, additional video or telescoping capability to Web sites for further engagement. 
  • Banner ads/or icons embedded in TV commercials are limited in their ability to link to long form video, microsites and Web sites. 

    Whether enee, menee, minee or moe, regardless of the media platform (cable, telco, satellite, IPTV, mobile, broadband), when we hook 'em we shouldn't let 'em go.


    We were advised by the telephone operators that we may still receive catalogues for up to three months, since mailing labels are preprinted so far in advance. So, it is too early to tell if we succeeded in our quest and/or unbeknownst to us unidentified others are besieging our household as this document goes to press. Also, one sympathetic catalogue call center representative directed us to the DMA (Direct Marketing Association) Web site to remove our name and mailing address from paper catalogue mailing lists en masse. Will keep you informed of our progress.

  • 4 comments about "Enee, Menee, Minee, Moe: Regardless Of The Media, When You Hook 'Em Don't Let 'Em Go".
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    1. Tom Cunniff from Combe Incorporated, January 27, 2009 at 12:40 p.m.

      Mitch, direct response marketers have learned that offering multiple choices can depress response.

      The theory is that additional choices take a consumer out of a visceral "should I buy this or not?" decision. Instead, the consumer begins dithering about the choices which leads to questioning whether it's worth buying in the first place.

      Expressed differently, if you think too long about whether you should buy "The Clapper" or a Homer Simpson Chia Pet you realize you were almost snookered :-)

      Will behavior be different in interactive TV? Will a new generation have different habits? Maybe. The good news about ITV is that we can test and learn.

    2. Jeffrey Jones from Word.Jones, January 27, 2009 at 1:45 p.m.

      Instead of making all those calls, you could just go to or to rid yourself of the green-killing onslaught of catalogs.

      But then you'd never have had the hook for the post.

    3. Jim Dugan from PipPops LLC, January 27, 2009 at 3:17 p.m.

      There was a report that each man, woman, and child receives an average of 67 cataLOGS each year. I don't remember the source, I do know my wife and I get our fair share.

      We've tried to stop it, but until we truly convince the advertisers that we prefer to be mobile, paperless, and intelligent, they'll still keep wasting their time and money and our time . . . . and the environment.

      I prefer to use my mobile for all of my 'catalog' needs while I'm out on the go. Once the stores that want my business get it they'll get it!

    4. Rebecca Rachmany from AdsVantage, January 28, 2009 at 6:27 a.m.

      My experience has been that you can get yourself off most lists eventually. The major glitch in the system is that the mailing houses are paid per-mail sent. It may or may not take them several months to remove your name from a list; it certainly is in their financial interest to take their time processing your request.

      The most notorious bulk mailer, by the way, is LightReading/Informa/IIR. Typically by the time I move from one company to the next, I'm getting 3-6 mailings under my name in various configurations. I've made phone, email and web-based attempts to get off the lists, but it's practically impossible. I've even spoken directly to several of their staff and the amount of money they are wasting doesn't seem to be of concern.

      As an aside, many years ago, one of my relatives started ordering mail-order items using a different middle name, and keeping track, so he would know who was selling his address forward. It didn't help stop the flow but it provided some interesting information.

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