Direct mail

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Direct advertising refers to an individual, mostly written form of advertising communication between providers and (potential) customers. It is a subordinate component of direct marketing within the market communication of marketing .

Advertising Materials

The most widespread is advertising via personalized letters ( mailings ). In addition, electronic media such as fax , e-mail , SMS and a wide variety of printed matter ( leaflets , brochures , mail-order catalogs , leaflets , price lists, samples , etc.) are used to deliver the advertising message . Addressees are individuals, households, commercial enterprises or institutions.

The advertiser can choose between the distribution to certain target groups (definition for example according to occupation, income, age, etc.) or mass distribution according to geographical aspects.

The design of the advertising material generally follows the AIDA model , rarely also according to the DAGMAR formula .

Data protection (GDPR, Germany)

Personal data of the recipients is collected and used for direct advertising, e.g. B. Name, address, email addresses or telephone numbers. In this respect, the data protection regulations, in particular the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), must be observed. The use of data for direct mail requires a legal basis. This can be consent (Art. 6 Para. 1 lit. a GDPR, so-called opt-in) or the balancing of interests (Art. 6 Para. 1 lit f. GDPR, opt-out). If the use of data is based on consent, the recipient of the advertising must expressly consent in advance. In the case of an opt-out, it is sufficient to provide the recipient with information combined with the possibility of an objection (opt-out).

When an opt-in is necessary and in which cases an opt-out is sufficient depends on the channel of contact (e.g. email, post, telephone) and the target group (business customers or private customers). In addition to the GDPR, the provisions of the Act against Unfair Competition (UWG) must be observed. The following table gives a rough overview:

Overview of requirements for direct mail
channel Consumer (B2C) Company (B2B)
Email / SMS Opt-in required, except for existing customers Opt-in required, except for existing customers
phone Opt-in Opt-in, but presumed consent is sufficient
post Office Opt out Opt out

"Existing customer privilege" means that an e-mail address was obtained from a customer in connection with the sale of goods or services (e.g. when placing an online order) and advertising for similar goods or services is carried out. All requirements of Section 7 (3) UWG must be observed.



Depending on the quality of address lists, direct mail can address precisely defined target groups individually and with comparatively little wastage . Success control is carried out, for example, via returns (orders, postcards, calls, etc.). The prerequisites for successful direct mail are as precise information as possible about the target group and corresponding addresses, which can be rented through address brokers (address publishers). Direct mail is often useful when the target group is small.


Direct mail can be perceived as an unreasonable nuisance . It is forbidden to call potential private customers ("cold calls"). The legislature has classified this harassment as immoral and expressly regulated it in the law against unfair competition (UWG) in § 7 UWG. For these reasons, the courts usually give very consumer-friendly judgments. Companies are only allowed to contact their own customers and only with their consent (opt-in) by phone.


Direct mail costs more per contact ( thousand contact price , CPM) than mass media advertising, but it is cheaper than, for example, calls to a call center or even personal visits. Because of its more intensive effect and the better possibilities of a targeted selection of the target persons to be addressed, direct mail is usually more cost-effective than anonymous general advertising with its relatively high wastage.


  • Joseph F. Schöngruber / Harald Faust: Response Management. Ettlingen 2002, 191 pp.

See also

Individual evidence

  1. Dr. Thomas Helbing: GDPR Practical Guide: Implement direct mail in compliance with data protection regulations (email, post, telephone marketing). Retrieved June 11, 2019 .