Even postal strikes aren’t what they used to be. Sure, there are picket lines, barrels full of burning (what do they burn, anyway?) stuff and a much emptier recycling bin, but the payoff wasn’t there. It used to be that the end of the strike was a bit of a postal Christmas morning. Beloved magazines, postcards and letters from absent friends appeared and, for those of us who actually read junk mail, well it was a pretty great day.

Sadly, all that turned up on my desk after the recent Canada Post vacation was my Harvard Business Review (the publishers had wisely sent me the electronic version weeks earlier so no fun there) and two bits of Smug Complacent Agency Mail (say, let’s call that SCAM for short).

Both pieces feature clever custom comic-style characters, neither was followed up in any way, and both were profound wastes of wood cellulose. Beyond that they’re pretty different. Let’s look at contestant number one:

This one has me cast as some kind of superhero, bringing together sales and marketing in a Camp Davidesque way with nothing more than a mask and an ebook. And it sucks on so many levels I’m not sure where to start. Let’s see, it came in a full-size heavy cardboard self-mailer with custom imprint. The kind of mailer thing that should hold a meaty document or a present or at least a court order. Alas it held just the one piece of paper. And sturdy paper it is at least 120lbs for no good reason. Epic fail on the being kind to trees front and also in the mailbag let-down department.

So the front suggests a definition of a sales enablement superhero. Fair enough. The agency was paying attention to the brief. But it doesn’t actually tell me a thing. Let’s turn it over. Ah, here’s a letter from Jim. And there are two personalizations. I hope that didn’t cost extra, Jim because that sort of thing stopped being interesting in 2005.

The letter itself is nicely written with two clear, if baffling, calls to action. They want me to download their ebook. And scan a QR code. Or maybe it’s either. Is this a free ebook? Doesn’t say. Will I need to hand over my drug history to download it? Probably, but since they have my mailing address, title, name and company, I’m not sure what else they are hoping to achieve.

Plus, and here’s where Jim totally missed the boat, they don’t actually tell me who they are or what they do. It’s not like the envelope was too full to add some info on their company, product or service. How about a little background? Some customer name-dropping? Where you got my name? Why you think I might be interested. Context, Jim, context. And if you don’t know this, then your agency should.

Now let’s look at the offer. An ebook. Wow. An ebook. I can’t get excited enough to look for the exclamation mark on my keyboard. Do you know who else has an ebook, Jim? Everyone. The beagle across the street has two and another in editing. It’s odd that the title of your ebook has nothing to do with the theme of your mailer. You know, Jim, if you were a better agency customer, you’d redesign your content to match the agency’s freaking brilliant creative insight that all marketers secretly want to wear a cape at work.

But here’s the thing that I’m just dying to know. If you’ve gone to all the trouble to write an ebook, why would you waste $1.87 sending me a dead tree to tell me, when you could send me an email instead for free?

Jim, my friend, I’m going to download your ebook just to see it, and because I’ve outed your folly, but I think you need to have a chat with your sales department to see why they didn’t feel enabled enough to call me up. You should also have a chat with your direct agency to see why they thought any of this made sense. But don’t call yet, it’s awards season and there’s just so much paperwork for them to do.

Next time: Still Life with Dog Biscuit