Given the highly competitive nature of the advertising industry, JICS are an interesting phenomenon. Collectively, the industry puts aside its normal party differences to come together for the greater good with one aim: to build a measurement system that any player from the three sides of the business — advertiser, agency, media owner — can trust to provide it with unbiased, reliable, information.
Not for nothing are they known as the gold standard of media research. Armed with JIC numbers, industry players can place their budgets with complete confidence. Billions of pounds of advertisers’ budgets are, at the top level, apportioned to different media on the basis of JIC figures.
Up until just a year ago, nearly all media channels were covered by a JIC. But not mail, which always seemed to me — for a £1bn-plus sector — a significant anomaly. It is not for me to say whether this held mail back, but you could certainly say it didn’t help it put its best foot forward.
Launched in January 2018, JICMAIL offers the key metrics a mail user requires: reach, frequency and exposure.
At base thus, JICMAIL levels the playing field.
But a year on and JICMAIL has started to add bells and whistles that you won’t find in any of its peers. JICMAIL’s Ian Gibbs has detailed some of them here, including integration with TGI and the IPA’s Touchpoints Channel Planner and…it’s the thing that I find compelling — the Mail Item Database.
Such a prosaic name hides a cornucopia of treasure, namely the ability to track both a competitor’s mail shots or on a sector basis, and see exactly how recipients interacted with them.
When was it opened? How many interactions did it generate? When did it generate them? And what commercial actions did the recipients take as a result? That is gold dust, especially when you can compare it to the performance of your own mail activity.
For planners, this must be like uncovering a mother lode. Where else, for example, could you find out in such detail how audiences interact with your message; uncover hidden target audiences that are receptive to mail; measure commercial outcomes; find out what types of mail drive what outcomes; or compare your performance against industry benchmarks?
This Month in the Life of Mail graphic gives a really informative overall picture of how mail performs.
In a sense, this gives JICMAIL an advantage over its peers. None can do anything remotely like this.
That it is possible, of course, is down to mail’s unique property, namely its physicality.
As JICMAIL itself says, the only reason people interact with mail is because they wish to.
An example in real life:
Handed the keys to the Mail Item Database, I thought I’d take a look at the performance of a mail item I know I also received: a Trailfinders catalogue last autumn.
I’m a big fan of Trailfinders. I use it for inspiration, I use it to research (er, borrow) itineraries, and sometimes I use it to book tickets or entire trips. On the whole I’m pretty loyal to it, and any competitors who want my business might be well advised to see how its mail performs in the household and learn from it.
Taking then a 2018 Trailfinders mailshot from late August (not a bad time for a travel mailer: the summer holidays are done, and some people are already thinking about their next trip), I looked at the customer journey of one family household in rural Wales.
Travel is a complex purchase. It can take time. There’s lots to consider, from options to timings to prices. Decisions involve partners and family, perhaps friends too. You might take a friend’s advice. Purchases are rarely made on impulse. There’s a lot of hemming and hawing, ‘maybe this, maybe that’ thinking that goes on.
And what a fascinating journey this mail item in Wales turned out to take — approximately three weeks from arrival to a final commercial action of planning a large purchase.
If you look at the timeline below, you can see that, all told, there were eight physical actions — ranging from sorting and putting aside for later viewing on arrival to reading and taking out of the house.
And then were nine commercial actions, including going online to the Trailfinder website (twice), web visits (presumably to check out alternatives or competitors), discussions with friends or family (three times), as well as a visit to a Trailfinder store.
We can judge that, throughout the process, the Trailfinders mailer was used, not just as a stimulus and (presumably) inspiration, but also as a key tool in discussions and planning.
Thanks to the benchmarking facility, we can also compare how this Trailfinders effort compares with the industry benchmark for addressed mail. The answer, not surprisingly, is that even in a category that generally performs well, this was something else.
This item is recorded as having double the frequency of the travel sector (8 against a sector average of 3.91) and is higher than some of its more established competition. Although the average lifespan for travel DM is 6.20 days, this item was still in the home after 22 days indicating highly valued content.
And finally, there’s a bonus too. The database also allows you to look at the creative (which, unless you have cunningly placed yourself on all your competitors’ mailing lists, is pretty hard to do in a structured way). This, for example, then allows for comparisons between your creative and theirs.
Here is the Trailfinders mailer. Was it the shot of the Colosseum that did it?
Currently JICMAIL is available to advertisers and agencies for a free six-month trial period. For your demonstration of JICMAIL and to access your free trial, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.