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Printed door drops are a powerful sales driver. So why are they under threat?
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22 . 06 . 23

Valuable door drops to remain part of retail media

Words by: Print Power
Online advertising, rising costs and sustainability concerns are putting the squeeze on the use of door drops. In Part 2 of our Door Drop Series, Europe’s leading retailers and marketers agree – there’s a way the flyers industry can thrive, even in the toughest of times…

Read also Part 1 of our Door Drop series, with interviews with the leading European experts.

Despite challenges faced by environmental concerns, the rise of digital and the economy over the last few years, there’s no doubt that door drops remain a powerful promotional sales tool – and one that is crucial in a customer acquisition strategy.  

Recently, the double-edged impact of the pandemic lockdowns which confined us to our homes over the last few years meant internet use surged to record levels and the use of door drops increased. But far from being a win for online marketers, advertisers found it increasingly difficult to get heard in a sea of digital noise.

Step forward door drops – a creative, tactile medium that has the cut-through to get one-on-one attention from a potential customer. Attention that’s an increasingly important metric in a marketing promotion strategy, and it’s here that print excels. JICMAIL’s 2023 ‘The time we spend with mail’ attention study found that mail is more attention efficient than virtually all other media channels, making it a cost effective channel.

1. The COVID-19 rebound

So, with such compelling evidence of effectiveness, what’s the problem? Well, unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic meant that demand for paper increased, while paper manufacturers had decreased the production volume. Virgin and recycled fibre became more expensive, and since 2022, inflation has pushed paper and logistics costs up. The result was that door drops became a more expensive channel. However, that was temporary and we are now seeing them decreasing again.

In addition, as we explained in Part 1 of our Door Drops Series, letterbox marketers in European countries are faced with increasing limitations on door drops due to local municipalities introducing a permission-based system and more selective distribution. Households need to display a sticker on their letterbox that shows their interest in receiving door drops (Oui Pub and Yes stickers).

Then there’s the concern around the carbon impact of production, distribution, waste and recycling. But as Mark Davies explains below, this reaction was likely provoked in the Netherlands at least, by Amsterdam’s soaring waste collection rates, which was to be expected given that The Netherlands distributes by far the most flyers and leaflets per week – on average around 28. Reassuringly, the industry is working to dispel some of the sustainability myths around paper versus the carbon footprint of digital.

2. Changes in the retailers’ advertising strategy – transformation to digital

All of these factors, as well as a desire to keep advertising revenue for themselves, have provoked retailers to explore the potential of advertising on their own digital apps and websites instead. It’s the brands stocked by a retailer who largely fund the production and distribution of door drops, and retailers have seen the financial benefits in shifting that revenue to their own coffers by advertising on their own digital channels.

A threat to the future of door drops? In the short term, potentially. But there are flaws in the retail media strategy. Door drops can offer 100% reach of households, while digital is limited to the number of people who, for example, will download and use an app.

Also, many retailers operate on a franchise basis – and the independents might decide not to follow the own media route. A case in point was when German DIY chain OBI decided centrally to stop door drops, while their independents shops continued to use them.

3. Managing the household budget in times of inflation

Then there’s the fact that for local outlets and customers in rural areas with bad or no broadband connection, highly popular door drops are a lifeline to staying informed about offers and saving money in the current economic crisis. As we mentioned before, the newly launched 150€ magazine in France is a way for retailers to get money off coupons to customers and promises to save the customer just that – 150€. But it’s unlikely the subscribers to the magazine would want every item on offer. Door drops, leaflets and brochures let customers compare sales promotion offers from various retailers and brands. The fact hasn’t changed that door drops play an important role for those living outside major cities.


The obvious danger here? When the reach of the retailer is exhausted, brands might adapt their media plans and bypass them to produce and send out their own door drops instead. Brands need to address infrequent customers who shop around at different retailers. (A French study shows that door drops increase footfall by 9% and that figure includes 20% new customers). These consumers have no clear retailer loyalty and will be more difficult to reach through retailer apps. Also, digital’s reach is limited to those who have downloaded the app, so it has lost the potential of acquiring new customers. Whereas door drops are a proven acquisition channel that is subject to less privacy rules. Some brands are already cottoning on to that.

4. Success in segmentation

So where’s the silver lining? The experts agree – faced with testing times and increased competition, it’s time to do some fresh thinking and find print marketing’s new place in the advertising landscape. And there’s one particular strength it should play to. In a world of increasing digital data security, the door drop industry has the ability to not only target new customers, but to fine tune the targeting to become more segmented.

Geomarketing uses location data, enriched with other consumer data like whether a customer likes gardening, pets, cars or charities, to direct door drops to specific areas and neighbourhoods that fit a brand’s customer profile. While digital printing offers the potential to further personalise leaflets and flyers. Door drops can be hugely effective when they communicate messages that are tailored and relevant to the customer. Examples of retailers and distributors show what’s possible. The Belgian supermarket chain Colruyt uses a personalised package of leaflets that is based upon clients’ buying behaviour in their shops. While Kiesjefolder in The Netherlands delivers a personalised package of different retail and brand leaflets based upon a customer’s preferences.

Door drops make a powerful campaign partner. It is a proven channel that drives traffic to shops and increases consumer spend (+13% in France). Door drops have many more convincing metrics when it comes to driving traffic to a brand’s website, resulting in following up calls to a company, or inspiring householders to share special offers with family members.

With increasing evidence that print can boost digital channels, there’s space in the media planning mix for letterbox marketing to be used as a driver to online. We need to speak to marketers more about integrating door drops with digital activity to maximise results in their brand advertising strategy.

MD of Print Power Ulbe Jelluma has brought together some of the leading voices in European retail and door drop marketing to discuss how the industry can use the brand-boosting, pulling power of door drops to harness advertising spend in the future…


Nicole Abenhaim, Deputy Director General of Marketing & Experience at MEDIAPOST, a leader in the targeted distribution of printed door drops in France.

Dominique Schelcher, President at Système U, a cooperative organisation of  independent supermarkets across France. The fourth biggest player in the sector, they are commonly located in rural towns

Sebastian Mitter, CMO of Prospega Group – a media agency specialising in local offer communications, mainly covering Germany and neighbouring countries. Between 60% to 70% of their turnover involves booking leaflets with free weekly newspapers, leaflet distribution organisations and postal organisations.

Thomas Hopman, CCO of Spotta - the only remaining nationwide network for door drop delivery in the Netherlands. He’s also the chairman of the industry association MailDB.

Aldo Breed - founder of Kiesjefoldersoffering a combination of printed and standard leaflets as well as direct addressed mail in the Netherlands. Subscribers pick which leaflets they want to receive and the front page of their leaflet bundle is also personalised with ads.

Mark Davies, MD of Whistl’s door drop division that manages addressed mail, parcels, ecommerce fulfilment, contact centres and door drops. He’s also the president of ELMA, the European letterbox Marketing Association.

Arnaud Dubin, Sales & Marketing Director at Pub-Audit, a print and digital geomarketing communications agency 

The economic context of (print) advertising

Ulbe Jelluma 

How has the struggling economy impacted the advertising industry? And how have brands changed their advertising and promotional strategies in these times of high inflation? In France for instance, the defensive narrative about door drops is around the fact that marketers are looking to reduce spend. Have you found that Nicole?

Nicole Abenhaim (Mediapost France) 

The advertising market in France is tight this year. There's been a real slowdown in investment affecting all media, and I think it's pretty much the same throughout Europe. It's classic when there's economic tension. The advertising market is fairly tense - print advertising in particular has been hit hard and is undergoing major changes. The print advertising market has experienced three market shocks in recent months. The first was the COVID crisis and the sharp rise in the price of paper. The increase in paper prices had two effects. Firstly, it increased the cost of campaigns, but above all, it caused tensions in paper supply, which was a problem for our major customers - particularly in food retailing - because they didn't have the visibility to be able to serve their points of sale in the volumes they needed.

That was the first shock, because they began to ask themselves, ‘How can I rationalise using paper when there’s this scarcity?’ Then, of course, following COVID, we saw an acceleration in the digitalisation of commerce. And as a result, sales outlets began to digitise their customer relations. We used to have print advertising everywhere, and now we're starting to have digital advertising to complement it. As a result, competition from digital media has added to paper’s problems. And then, the icing on the cake was the ‘Oui Pub’ experiment. Even though it affected very few mailboxes in France - around 3% -  it accelerated the decision by some of the major chains like Leclerc to announce the end of paper, and had a slightly disruptive effect on the market.


Ulbe Jelluma

And what have been the changes among retailers?

The French print advertising market was fairly resilient until 2020, and over the last four years between 2019 and the end of 2023, the market has almost halved in terms of volume. It's a big drop that happened very quickly. These losses in volume are mainly concentrated in the major food retailers. Fortunately, we still have many customers who remain attached to printed advertising. We have, for example, networks like Système U in France, which are quite supportive of printed advertising, even if they don't use it as much as they used to.

Dominique Schelcher (President at Système U, talking in trade magazine LSA)

We are at an economic turning point. Several changes are cumulative:

Inflation will be long lasting and this has been new for a long time. Even if food prices should stabilize in the summer, even if some prices could fall in the fall, we will not return to pre-war prices and inflation will remain. We are witnessing the end of a certain globalization of cheap consumption. Low-cost products coming from Asia for years are over. Low cost energy is also over due to the latest geopolitical upheavals. However, the agri-food chain is very energy-intensive.

In this context, for the first time since the 1960s, food consumption, including catering, fell by 4.6% in 2022, bringing it back to 2010 levels according to INSEE. This shows a different relationship of the French to food. This different relationship is also the consequence of a desire on the part of a growing number of French people to better respect the planet. In concrete terms, second-hand products are taking off, flexitarianism is gaining momentum, local and regional products have become the first purchasing label since the COVID-19 crisis.

For us traders, supply has become a real issue: some materials are running out, French agricultural production has been declining for several years for multiple reasons. Seamless supply is no longer a given as it used to be. Interest rates are permanently higher and change the balance of projects. To all this we must add a new relationship to post-COVID-19 work: the value of work no longer has the same importance for the young generation in all studies. All companies must adapt their management to this new situation to attract talent and retain them. Not without better taking into account the subject of salaries.

Sebastian Mitter  (CMO of Prospega Group)

The economic challenge in Germany revolves around exactly that - wages. And that’s impacting our industry. There was a big hike in the minimum wage last year to 12 euros per hour – this was a very drastic step. Now the government is discussing 14 euros per hour for next year. which would once again pose a challenge for us.

However, the door drop medium has proven its resilience over time. When it comes to stationary food retailers, DIY stores, and drug stores/pharmacies, there is still no better alternative to leaflets in Germany. These three sectors continue to be the driving force behind the effectiveness of leaflet distribution.

The new branch of media: retail media

Ulbe Jelluma

Another term I'd like to mention is ‘retail media’. When you look at the figures that are forecasted for next year, it is a sector that's going to see enormous growth. How would you define ‘retail media’?

Arnaud Dubin (Sales & Marketing Director at Pub-Audit)

The idea is to turn advertising into a profit center. It’s mainly everything digital. It’s data that’s then sold. The advertiser's agents sell their audience. To sell their audience, they need consumer data. And then, they're going to go and use this audience to negotiate prices with the big brands. It's the brands that will buy and pay for the audience.

There's the risk that retail media will kill off mass distribution as there's nothing to stop them delivering direct to consumer (DTC). In the future, the big brands might decide that they could develop their own business using this strategy too and do away with the distributors.  

Ulbe Jelluma

Is that what's happening in France too?

Nicole Abenhaim

In many cases, the advertising print model was for selling space to brands. In the end, brands bought space in these flyers. It was an important quid pro quo. Now, in fact, the chains are trying to repatriate these budgets to their proprietary media. This works quite well in some cases, but we're still talking about a visibility that's much lower than the visibility provided by the presence of being in a catalogue or on door drops. And the second point is that not all manufacturers have access to it. This applies to the major national brands, but we lose out in terms of diversity of exposure.

Brands come to us to distribute leaflets directly to letterboxes, because they have a greater presence in the catalogue. They say things like ‘I need to boost my listing in such and such a geographical area, because my competitor is taking the market share’. We've had a few manufacturers come to us directly since the beginning of the year for this reason.

Ulbe Jelluma

So there’s a very real challenge from own retail media…

Thomas Hopman 

I don't see it as a real challenge, though. I think retail or own media will only be possible for, let's say, the top five brands. And a whole big bunch below that will never develop enough reach to get something out of it substantially. Sustainability will also be will a factor in it. So for instance, if they can sell space in a leaflet or on digital and they’re going to bring in the same amount of money, they'll probably make the choice for online.

Sebastian Mitter

I am for example in direct contact with brands in the B2C tool manufacturing sector, and based on my understanding, relying solely on retail media provided by the retailers would limit their growth opportunities. For some of these brands, we execute flyer campaigns with a 360 degree approach, incorporating the retailer's branding to support local sales in the targeted  stores. Unfortunately, the local media sector often remains silent on the stories claiming that print media is on the decline. However, I believe we don't need to stay silent. We have the facts on our side, proving that print-based campaigns still yield successful results.

Retailers are banking on the chance to convert advertising grants from brands into additional profits. In the past, brands allocated their advertising budget to retailers for leaflet space, newspaper ads, or billboard placements. Now, certain large retailers aim to become the next retail media champion like Amazon by persuading brands to invest a significant portion of this budget into their own channels – their app, social media platforms, and instore media– instead of allocating it to local media marketers. Essentially, they are competing with us for brands' advertising funds. 

Many experts argue that retail media will only work for large companies. As a medium-sized company, you may lack the necessary data and customer touchpoints to develop a robust retail media strategy. You either need to be significantly large or collaborate with other retailers to share data.

The risk, of course, is that relying solely on own media as the primary channel may not reach as many potential customers as with a strategy including door drops to fill the funnel.

However, my message to retailers is this: why fight against the very media that has successfully propelled you to this strong market position over the past 30 years? Instead, consider integrating door drops into a holistic media strategy that complements your existing efforts.

Arnaud Dubin

I think there are two things that preface the questions posed, and that's the nature of the territories. France is a large territory, similar to Germany and England in that we have urban megacities and rural areas. We've seen this in France with the yellow vest movement, where we have two worlds that clash.

The worlds that allow access to digital information have rather young, very urban centers.

In which case, a catalogue or door drop doesn't necessarily have a target audience there. We have - and this represents 13% of the population in France - the ten major French metropolises. Then there's the rest of the population, which may have ‘white zones’, which means they may not have the capacity to go digital. So paper is an important source of information.



Dominique Schelcher (talking in trade magazine LSA)

Let's not forget that brutal decisions will leave some of the French on the sidelines. Système U is the main brand in rural areas, where 60% of our customers still request our brochures. In some places, the ‘Oui Pub’ experiment shows that more than a quarter of the local population wants it. Consumers tell me when I'm in my store in Alsace. They tell my colleagues in the Lot, Vendée, Anjou…

As much as the appetite for it has decreased in towns… in many other areas the flyer remains a much needed support, especially in times of inflation. Some customers come with flyers in hand looking for bargains they have patiently selected at home. The brochure is a powerful weapon of comparison between brands. According to Ademe, 40% are thrown away without being read – meaning almost two thirds are read and useful!

Removing flyers, when some do not even have internet access, is simply ignoring part of the population, some of our elders. This debate sends them back once again to this feeling of downgrading and of no longer being up to date.

Ulbe Jelluma

P&G’s Mark Pritchard recently gave a speech saying that media effectiveness is no longer about who spends the most, but about combining creativity, data analytics and targeting to reach the most customers with the greatest precision. How do door drops fit into this strategy?

Mark Davies

Evidently this latest speech is part of a series of speeches given by Marc Pritchard where P&G have used their position in global advertising to try to improve marketing for all. What was nice about his original speech was that he accepted responsibility for being dazzled by digital and acknowledged that they had forgone some of their traditional rigour in the face of the innovation presented by digital.

He also signalled a change which turned out to not simply be words on a platform but rather a root and branch review of how his teams across the world work. Back in the early noughties, P&G was a decent spender in door drops in the UK along with most FMCG brands. In-home sampling and targeted couponing were both in its toolkit. Then when digital arrived on the scene, the briefs dried up and we saw no spend from them in a decade. Then shortly after this first speech, they re-engaged and have been steady ever since. Linking to my point about how we are in some ways the answer to some of the problems created by digital marketing, P&G could be an excellent case study to prove my point. As a backlash to vanity metrics, opaque measurement and a trust-free environment, they have turned to our channel as a means to deliver audiences and deliver transparently effective campaigns.

Aldo Breed 

In the Netherlands, more than 20% of consumers prefer to read offers on paper. To achieve maximum reach, the use of folders is therefore necessary. Because we address our folder packages and know the choice of the consumer, it is possible to communicate data driven with the right consumers. For example, in a case with a producer of spice mixes, we were able to provide customers with the right profile who shop at the right supermarkets with a sample and a discount voucher for a new innovative product. .

Ulbe Jelluma

How do you discuss these changes with retailers?

Nicole Abenhaim

When we talk to the head office, the media agency is obviously involved, but above all, we talk to the individual sales outlets. We intervene at head office level for things like national campaigns, but what really sets us apart is our ability to manage local and multi-local campaigns. Our customers are retail outlets, and it's these outlets that we support in the digital transition of their communications. Often, these networks are franchises. In our country, we have two distribution models: what we call the integrated model, which means that the head of the network has full control of the business, and it's they who make the decisions. And we have a completely decentralized model, where the independents are the ones who pay for their campaign. The head office refers solutions, negotiates rates and then provides communication advice. After that, it's up to each outlet to organize its own communications. So our teams visit each outlet to help them organize their communications. It's intense. We have a lot of salespeople working for all the major chains.

Arnaud Dubin

Retail in France is divided into several markets. We can see that the major food retailers have entered the retail media market to the detriment of consumers, who no longer have easy-to-access, free tools for comparing offers. Michel Edouard Leclerc is not a philanthropist, and his approach, under the guise of ecology, is primarily mercantile.

As for food and non-food discount chains, they are well aware of the importance of leaflets in generating in-store traffic. In this respect, a sales manager for a bazaar chain told me that poor distribution meant 30% less sales. We'll see what the future holds, but if there's one truth, it's that of the wallet, and to date, with the cost of paper falling, print remains kingdom, while digital has to activate seven to eight levers to achieve the same effect. 

Ulbe Jelluma

Mark, you're in the UK market which is not comparable to the others?

Mark Davies

Not not comparable directly, although there are obviously echoes and precedents.

Obviously, it would be great if everybody had a retailer’s app downloaded and everybody did exactly what the brands want them to do digitally. But the reality is that people just don't, plus your connectivity and the clutter in your life can potentially get in the way of your engagement. Whereas print has that amazing ability to cut through.


The moment door drops stop working means that we've lost a consumer and we're dead. But the consumer in the main likes door drops, and takes actions against them.

Our problem lies very much more with the marketeers who are always pushing the next thing. The benefit that we get from working with charities and with digital marketers in  e-commerce brands in the UK is that they have all the data points that we need to tell a fantastic story about how well the channel is delivered.  We can tell ‘better than Facebook’ stories. We can tell stories about consumer behaviour around leaflets, rather than a general fuzzy sense that they work. And consumers love them.

We've got hard facts and business level metrics to prove that point. We’ve got a very strong toolkit as a channel. The next two to three years are going to see the most seismic impact on digital marketing that's happened in its history. With the abolition of cookies, the refinement of data, privacy first applications, and operating systems from the big tech companies, the things that people take for granted that they can do nowadays in digital marketing will not be possible. Or will not be possible at the same price, at the same scale, or with the same impact and results.

Everything is going to change, not just door drops. And in the contest for what comes after that watershed moment, we can be a beneficiary, and we can grow again.

Print door drops and carbon neutral campaigns

Ulbe Jelluma

Which advertising strategy should retailers and brands use, given the challenge of sustainability and retail media?

Aldo Breed 

Let's say that 30% of the people in Holland still want to have paper flyers – that’s still a lot of people. And if more targeting of door drops means they are effective, then you can raise your price a little bit for distribution, because there is less paper waste. Budget-wise, it’s positive for the advertiser and the customer, retailer and distributor is happy too.


Dutch distributor Spotta analysed the door drop funnel for the personal health sector: 92% of the sample (45.519 people) received the door drop, 47% read it, 18% visited the shop and 14% bought a product that was featured in the leaflets.

Mark Davies

The complaints about waste in big cities in the Netherlands started with Amsterdam, who had the worst recycling rates in the whole of Holland. So it feels like we're an innocent bystander at the scene of a tragedy. A lot of the environmental myths were behind this opt-in initiative in Europe. But the myths are beginning to be challenged. We’re working with Fedma and all the European bodies involved in print to lobby the EU with the facts. 

In the UK, the Advertising Association launched a landmark project called AD Net Zero. Effectively, the advertising industry is supporting the wider UK government's ambitions to get the UK to net zero by 2050. And with a very specific target for advertising to get there by 2030. So we've done our bit 20 years early. We signed up to that alongside the Royal Mail. And I'm working through it with some of the working parties. What I'm finding out is that it’s perception and misinformation that dogs us - those are the challenges to overcome. The benefit for me of doing it through the Advertising Association - who I'll be honest, historically have not been that interested in door drop or direct mail marketing – is that they have a lot of engaged and important stakeholders in the press, in magazines, in out of home and in other traditional media that use printers or substrates. So that's been quite helpful.

I got involved partly defensively, because I was worried about what they might make of us and because of the misconception as around print. One of the outputs they're looking to try to achieve, for example, is a media planning tool which is not based on audience or reach or engagement or results, but actually based on carbon. So you can plan a carbon neutral campaign.

It's crucial that we get our numbers right and our facts straight so that we can be a positive contributor to that. We need to educate people on the fact that print is a by-product of the forestry and timber industry and stress that we never cut down trees. We sweep up the bits that are discarded or manufactured as part of the circular economy and we can be recycled seven times. Contrast that with digital and other media where they're actually quite far behind the curve. Their environmental impact is hidden but equally tangible.

The fact that people can sequester carbon throughout its entire life, not just in forests. The fact we're planting and replanting all these trees. There is a circular, sustainable story around print which we just need to amplify.

Nicole Abenhaim

We're working more on optimization, better targeting, and reducing the weight of documents. The current situation is forcing us to rethink the model of printed advertising in letterboxes. In the future, there will be less printed advertising, but it will be better targeted and chosen by consumers.

We'll be using fewer flyers, which will attract more attention and be more eagerly awaited. This notion of a print product that is chosen, awaited and desired is a strong point of conviction for us, and will contribute to ensuring that this market continues to exist. Even if volumes are lower, there will be more value to be found in this market.

However for door drops, it depends on the size of the zone. A small retailer is obliged to go for door drops because he needs to make himself known on a massive scale. But in areas of a certain size, we're bound to go for more refined targeting. On the other hand, digital will be much more present and will cover more areas.


Life Cycle Analysis Comparison: Print vs. Digital

Debates surrounding the sustainability of print versus digital channels will undoubtedly persist as long as these options exist, without a definitive tool for assessment. As part of a comprehensive three-part study conducted by French Mediapost, this particular comparison examines two scenarios. The first scenario involves a printed A5 flyer and a video on social media, while the second scenario evaluates a 36-page leaflet in contrast to an email, mobile app, and video.

For the calculation, five distinct categories were considered: Ecosystems, climate change, personal health, resources, and water. Within these categories, a total of 16 different criteria were utilized.

The key findings of this comparison are as follows:

  1. In all categories, except for one criterion (land use), the printed paper channel outperforms the digital variant, indicating its superior sustainability.
  2. The disparity between the paper and digital formats is significant, with the digital variant scoring between 2 and 33 times higher than print. Lower scores for print indicate a reduced environmental impact.
  3. The impact of paper usage is more pronounced in scenario 2 (involving a 36-page leaflet) than in scenario 1 with an A5 flyer. Nevertheless, even in scenario 2, the difference in impact with the digital variant remains substantial, emphasizing the sustainable advantage of print.
  4. Enhancements to the impact score of paper can be achieved by focusing on critical aspects such as paper grade quality, ink type, and electricity consumption by paper mills.
  5. Similarly, the score for digital media can be enhanced by optimizing the electricity usage of hosting servers, routers, and computers. 

Source: Mediapost (France)


An interesting point too is that in France, the ‘Oui Pub’ experiment was decided following the Loi climat et résilience. It was because paper has a reputation for being polluting, a waste, and so on. So we did a sales cycle analysis to compare digital with print. The idea is to enable advertisers to make informed choices, because digital also has an impact. And in certain configurations, if the motivation to stop using paper is a guilty ecological conscience, you still have to look at what you're replacing it with. It’s easy to get preconceived ideas around today’s climate situation.

‘Today with the acquisition of Leader Price stores, we have 1,300 stores in France, but our notoriety and our consideration remain weak. We need a lot of ways to make ourselves known. Our leaflets are important because they allow us to relay the products present only one week in our stores. We need to show our Everyday Low Price model and our promotions. The catalogue also has an educational aim to present our offer, made up of 90% of our own brands.’
Anne-Marie Gaultier
Director of Communications & Marketing, Aldi France

Arnaud Dubin

Transformation can come about by no longer looking at volume, but looking at targeting the audience. ‘Oui Pub’ can be an opportunity as long as it's installed for the right reasons. If it's installed for ecological reasons, simply to try and make people feel guilty, it won't work. On the other hand, if we send the consumer only what they’re interested in, then that will work. People were predicting 15 years ago that the digital tablet would kill the book, but France is selling more printed books than ever. We just need to be able to offer retailers the right tools for the right targeting.

Sebastian Mitter

The thing is, we don't talk about improvements we’ve already made in areas like sustainability. Take for instance one package of leaflets delivered last weekend in Germany, then compare the weight with 2019, or 2015. I would argue that we have lost 50% of the weight. That means paper production of the leaflets has changed compared to three or four years ago. Why? Because of paper prices, the format is shrinking and the page count is shrinking. Four years ago, we still had more than 80 million circulation of free newspapers each week in Germany. We are now closing in on around 55 million circulation of free newspapers each week going through letter boxes. So there is such a huge amount of paper saved already, compared to just three or four years ago.

Ulbe Jelluma

In this changing landscape, how do you see print evolving and what are the opportunities for print advertising? A shift towards a mix of print and digital? 

Dominique Schelcher (talking in trade magazine LSA)

We may be the last to propose a brochure, and we will not take a decision without anticipating the consequences. To be a merchant differently is precisely to have the wisdom not to do like the others.

The prospectus is much more than paper! And it is clear that digital alternatives are not yet able to replace door drops. Some approaches show that it is necessary to work with seven to eight digital media to obtain the same efficiency as paper. We are of course growing in power on digital alternatives. But the position of Systeme U is to not stop the prospectus suddenly as we have the common sense that our customers demand of us.

The reality of digital’s carbon footprint is growing clearer, and I am still waiting for the study that proves it is more virtuous to replace the prospectus with a considerable sum of investments which will permanently run servers in the four corners of the world.

Finally, what are we going to say to the 60,000 people who work in the printing and distribution of these leaflets in France? In 2020, we decided at Systeme U to relocate all our printing. Two years later, I want to say to these employees (our customers in rural areas): let's continue our transition! Let's invent the brochure of tomorrow, which obviously does not yet exist, so lacking are credible alternatives. We have all the ingredients for an in-depth transformation, likely to generate a cycle rich in opportunities.

Sebastian Mitter

What we see is that brands have tried the digital media route already and they learned from these experiences. One learning is, that digital works even better in combination with a base load of door drops. In addition, we did several customer studies asking if leaflets had the same impact in 2022 as in 2015. And it really astonished us. They were basically getting the same results as they did seven years ago!

Nicole Abenhaim

There will never be as much paper as there was five years ago, but paper will always be there because it has a real contribution to make in complementing digital. Really, our sales approach is about optimizing the media mix according to the consumer's profile and the type of zone they’re in. Then we'll mix print and digital advertising to increase the campaign's ROI. But it's not one or the other.

We're not removing door drops because it's a channel that consumers appreciate. All advertisers who have tested digital alternatives realise that printed advertising is the primary drive-to-store channel. When they try to offset this effect with digital devices, they have to apply a lot of advertising pressure. It takes between seven and nine levers to replace a leaflet. That's a lot. It's absolutely enormous. Print remains effective too. What we see is that when we distribute a promotional catalogue, for example, people like to make comparisons. And that's not so easy with digital catalogues, which are somewhat prisoners of each retailer's own environment. Also, we see that read rates for print advertising are around five minutes, whereas in digital, it's a few seconds, so the attention really isn't the same.

Arnaud Dubin

What has boosted interest in the paper medium over the past year is the price inflation that has plagued Europe. Since purchasing power is a major issue for the French, we can see that confidence has been restored in the door drop, as it is a very powerful promotional tool that can successfully convey a message. For years, we thought it was the number of impressions, the number of views and the volume that were important in print and flyer advertising.

But the real debate in the years to come will be about how much attention the consumer pays to different media. Paper will make it possible to disconnect both in terms of location and consultation time. In this respect, the Christmas toy catalogue is the perfect illustration of the pleasure generated and expected by a readership eager to know about a large offer. Amazon was not mistaken when it published a special Christmas toy paper catalogue.