The U.S. Postal Service has given up the idea of selling advertising space on its vehicles and collection boxes, in Post Office lobbies and on the covers of stamp booklets for lack of interest.
On second thought and closer examination, it didn't look like such a good idea anyway, the agency admitted yesterday.
Outlined last August, the idea behind the proposal was to see if the Postal Service should get into advertising to make up operating deficits and hold down postage rates.
The agency had in mind selling companies advertising space in its 39,486 Post Office lobbies, and on its 122,555 trucks, 287,777 collection boxes and certain philatelic items such as the 249 million stamp booklets it sells a year.
For starters, the Postal Service said yesterday through the Federal Register that, of 1,026 comments received on its proposal, "None expressed any interest or potential future interest in purchasing advertising space. . . .
Of those who commented, 380, or 38 percent, supported the concept on the grounds that any method of increasing postal revenues should be tried. Another 303, or 29 percent, opposed the idea on the grounds that it would subject Americans to more commercialism and would be an affront to the dignity of the Postal Service and government in general.
The remaining 343 responses, representing 33 percent, supported the concept only if it would help to minimize future postage increases and if certain conditions were applied. These included good-taste standards and the avoidance of advertising for cigarettes, liquor and personal products, and political and religious messages, requiring the Postal Service to act as a censor, the agency noted.
There were other problems with the concept, the agency said. For instance, advertising agencies contacted said advertising on trucks wasn't likely to be successful, and that only the "street side" of the truck could be used. Also, about 30 percent of the normal transit ads are in the "censored" category. And expensive vinyl posters would have to be used for the truck advertising to keep them nice in all kinds of weather.
Overall, to save a penny in the first-class postage rates would require offsetting revenues or cost savings of at least $600 million a year, but the agency's most optimistic evaluation of the revenue potential of an advertising program couldn't come anywhere near that level, it said.