Junk mail facts

There's no shortage of junk mail research. Not a week goes by or the results of yet another study are published, usually 'proving' that we all love 'direct mail' and can't get enough of it. Invariably such 'research' is funded by the junk mail industry.

Independent and objective data about junk mail doesn't exist. The facts and figures presented in this section are based mainly on data published by the Direct Marketing Association and the Mail Media Centre. These aren't objective and trustworthy sources. They usually present the fruits of their research in the form of PowerPoint presentations, and they never ever bother showing how research has been conducted. In other words, the figures they produce usually don't have anything to do with research. Rather, it are marketing exercises aimed at selling the 'direct mail channel' to advertisers and/or convincing MPs and the public that junk mail is a very sustainable form of advertising indeed.

I've tried to make sense of the available data with this in mind. I've also tried to compensate for the industry's secretiveness by publishing the calculations I've done, as well as the sources I've used. A spreadsheet is available in .ods (OpenOffice / LibreOffice) format:

Quick facts

If you're looking for some quick facts and figures, here are the headlines (all relating to 2009):

  • An estimated 12 billion pieces of junk mail are distributed to UK households and businesses annually.
  • This is equivalent to between 4,6 and 6,1m trees.
  • The average (adult) person gets 65 pieces of addressed junk mail per year.
  • The average household gets 326 pieces of unaddressed junk mail per year.
  • The average household gets 453 pieces of junk mail (including addressed and unaddressed advertisements).
  • Over 90% of all advertising mail is unsolicited (i.e. the postal equivalent of cold calling).
  • About 9% of people is registered with the Mailing Preference Service.
  • About 0.8% of households is registered with the Door-to-Door Opt-Out.
  • About 0.006% of households is registered with the Your Choice Preference Scheme. That's not a typo; it's a fact.
Last updated: 
4th August 2011