on Nov 30th, 2009 in Ideas Worth Exploring | 32 comments

From public transportation to sports stadiums, venues use their prime real estate to sell space to advertisers and generate extra revenue. Take for example the Washington Metro transit system. Ad space is for sale everywhere — on buses and trains (inside and out) and even on train tunnel walls and floors.

In these times of doing what it takes to maintain fiscal solvency, what if the Postal Service started selling its prime advertising real estate to generate revenue? Major advertisers might welcome the opportunity to place their ad on hundreds of thousand Postal Service trucks all over the country. Or smaller advertisers could take advantage of purchasing wall-space in a post office. The Postal Service actually explored selling advertising space around 2001 in a program called the Postal Ad Network, but it was discontinued after it raised much less money than initially expected. However, a major advertising slump hit right at the time the Postal Ad Network was rolling out.

There are some major ‘what ifs.’ Who would manage the program and what would be charged for advertising? More importantly, what would the limitations be? When Major League Baseball proposed placing ads on bases, there was a major league backlash. How would the public react to advertising on Postal Service property? Would certain types of advertising be out of bounds? The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act does not permit the Postal Service to undertake new nonpostal products. Would selling advertising on Postal Service property violate the law? And how would selling advertising space affect the Postal Service’s brand?

Putting aside those issues, would it be worth it? And what kind of increased revenue would an advertising program like this bring?

This topic is hosted by the OIG's Risk Analysis Research Center (RARC).


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If the sides of postal vehicles are to become mobile advertisements. So what's next for the federal government? Are we going to sell ad space on the steps of the US Capitol?

You are missing the whole point on purpose. Stop covering for what will be done. The people running the USPS could care less about generating revenue. You are trying to project an image that the USPS management is looking under every stone to be a success. This leads people to think they are rational business people looking to cut costs everywhere while seeking new revenue. Dream on.

The USPS has one frame of reference and only one. And that is: The only action needed to save the USPS is to go after Letter Carriers. All of these alternative strategies are just "pie in the sky". The only relevant solution is harass, berate, deny sick leave, and constantly lie to the Letter Carriers.

I'll give you one example. For years backing up an LLV was considered a safety hazard and constantly briefed on the work floor to be careful. There is technology used today on vehicles using rear looking cameras so kids do not get run over. The USPS installs GPS to monitor Letter Carriers instead.

Crushing kids and banging into vehicles might be a safety concern but lets get serious. What is really important? Harass Letter Carriers or prevent an accident that can get a Letter carrier fired.

Why not advertise our own products and services on the vehicles? We made clerks wear flat-rate box t-shirts to advertise, why not use the vehicles for our own advertising? Cheaper than other advertising methods, and if its our own products would sidestep the issues if we sell to others.

I believe it is a great idea to advertise on Postal Service vechicles and in Postal Service facilities. Other government agencies do it and have great success. However, the Postal Service should think hard about who should manage the sale and delivery of advertising for two reasons. First, the current revenue situation dictates the Postal Service internally manage sales to maximize thier return on investment. However, the cost associated managing sales may be very high and may best be accomplished using an advertising agency. A cost analysis of in-house over contracting-out is needed.

In reference to public image, many internet sites maintain contraints over additional company Webb site links on their Webb pages. Most are similar to thier own operation. I see no reason why the Postal Service could not also maintain certain constraints over what companies' advertising is acceptable.

Concerning the Postal Service Accountability and Enhancement Act and nonpostal products, how would this type of advertising be different from publishing companies who print and publish magazine advertisments at DMUs for distribution? Too me, the only difference would be trucks carring the sales pitch on Postal Service vehicles and inside retail units, instead of printing advertisments in magazines and placing them inside contractor-operated or Postal Service trucks for delivery.

Maybe UPS would become the first customer!

Why not...advertise USPS products, ads for other goverment and state agencies, military, state lottery

So I guess we can expect to see UPS and Fedex advertised on the side of Postal vehicles?

I proposed this iedea last year thru my supervisiors and the USPS on-line suggestion program. It was never given a second thought. Imagine that.

The revenue from ads on vehicles would be trivial compared to it's impact on the USPS brand.

The USPS business model and regulatory framework needs fundamental change.

This idea is superficial. What is needed is far deeper.

Why not advertise our new banking services?

USPS Banking please check out USPS.com.

Selling space to advertise is a good way to increase revenue, we just have to have a better type of displayed used on the sides of vehicles. The last type of ad decals that were used caused a lot of damage to the paint on the vehicles when they were removed.

We need all the advertising we can get ourselves. Seems it would make more sense to advertise our own products, services (i.e. free carrier pick-up), website, etc. rather than someone else's on our vehicles, and to replace outrageously costly TV commercials with this source of advertising.

The best company the Postal Service can advertise for is itself. Making a few bucks selling ad space on delivery vehicles only takes away from its own brand awareness - which is what is really important.

Why would the postal service pay someone else to sell space on their trucks. I am sure if the postal service can deliver a package anywhere in the world surely they are able to sell ads. People should buy ads showing the world how sorry congress is. After watching CSPAN I can see why all government agencys are in the shape they are in. It make me sick to see grown people act like 5 year old kids.

The Postal Services own products, yes, others NO. It would take the unique quality away from the service.
Maybe next we could sell ice cream from the back as they drive around the neighborhood's
Geez...who is the brainchild behind that idea??

I actually voted no on this issue. But I had thought of this possibility in the past. For postal revenue purposes of course. Yes, we are in trouble and have to look at all prospects. Im actually relieved to see the USPS exploring various avenues and broadening their horizons. Whether these ideas are implemented or not, at least the USPS is widening the scope of ideas and getting creative until their "Eureka" moment. Why wont this work? The USPS is the most trusted government agency as indicated by polls. Where would the discretion be regarding on what ads to display? And since the public trust the postal service, would we be endorsing such company? Should we only display Better Business Bureau top 5? We wouldnt want to be associated with "fly by nights" and unscrupulous companies regardless of their prime endorsement fees.We would go down faster than a house of matchsticks in reputation. How could it work? The companies interested could 'bid' on their ads. And as a consumer, I would assume it would be an endorsement such as USPS teaming up with chick-filet and Hallmark, yes, they are reputable, consumer friendly, respected companies and should be the only type of companies USPS even considers. Clean all american, long standing images. After all, lets not get tacky here. And of course it would have to be for a limited time not written into another postal organizational act. I am saddened about the USPS structural troubles and financial problems. It appears another dependable nostalgic service is diminishing before our eyes as we try to hold onto hundreds of years in the making with no resolution in sight. Watching as an old friend silently slips away..I realize it is all about the dollar and no one seems to be able to survive without it,but we must think of what impressions we are to portray and what need we are going to full fill for the american public. How can we stay afloat doing just that? Think USPS just keep thinking! Before you give it all up, get the publics view..dont throw suggestions out there such as do you want 5 day deliveries?...Do you want to pay more for stamps? etc...Ask the public what they want from their postal service and request their suggestions...then deliver it.

I read on APWU's website regarding the postal services financial problems. The bulk of our business seems to be in big mailers. So..USPS cannot survive without them and they actually cant survive without USPS. So...it appears the convincing needs to start with them. Just a thought..could we not offer some incentive to customers who purchase a postal product in exchange, they receive an incentive to purchase from the advertiser? Coupons seem a little risky here, could the receipts we provide at the windows have the advertisers logo (and ours) with their incentive discount? similiar to what some retailers are actually already doing on their in store products. Use CVS and Walgreens as an example. (they solicit certain brands for discounts)
The consumer will keep the coupon (crucial in todays economy)and most consumers are really to busy to cut and hunt for these coupons anyways...these will be "ready to go" for redemption. So, we will most likely have less mail to deliver if the "advertisers" choose this option, but the USPS can put more converted carriers to clerks on the windows improving customer service. Which is likely to grow with satisfaction...Make the logos with color if you will. It seems as though we may save alot in fuel charges anyways. This will not eliminate home deliveries for ads altogether, just some choice retailers who may want this option. The USPS would receive negotiated fees for this service to advertisers and local eateries...just a thought

You need to cross the line and change the business model. Get past the "it doesn't look right" and open up new revenue like other business. If it's profitable keep it. If it's not lose it. It's tough because you're serving the people, but you need to sell that ad space because that's what business' do.

- Open up stamps to advertising as well. Let them bid on higher circulation stamps.

You need more revenue so you keep passing the cost on to consumers that need the service less and less. The model is broken. The more you raise rates the less desirable the service. You will never recapture the entire user base, so you need to monetize what you have left in every way possible.

I don't see the problem with postal service selling advertising space on their vehicles, but on the other hand, I suppose they could have more benefit if they use it for their own promotion - I doubt they could raise more funds by selling space then using it themselves.

The Postal Services. it would take the unique quality away from the service.

That's an awesome way of advertising :)

I remember a few years ago Canada Post had every truck on it's fleet decked out with advertising from Amazon.

How about bringing stamps down to the community level. If states can have license plates, why not specialized state or local stamps.

Certain types of advertising are always out of bounds but selling advertising on Postal Service property should not violate the law. Just my opinion.

Advertising with sports teams seems to me to be a family oriented safe way to add revenue and support communities. Just a thought.

The post office needs to be more aggressive in reducing their business loss. Selling there space on the mail vehicle would be a good start

How about linking with youth sports? There are always opportunities to sponsor or let youth teams advertise. The post office is a great gathering spot for these types of activities

I think they make too much money- No "agressiveness" needed.

Couldn't disagree more. Extra sources of income can help keep consumer prices lower and service levels higher. As an ongoing enterprise, I like looking for other ways of funding.

Tough times call for tough measures

The Post Office needs to let a third party handle the advertising. You need to have experts who know how to make money and make the tough decisions needed.

I think that the post office should offer advertising. All the other public entities do, like the MTA they do.