A new reference measure for, and by, the Belgian advertising sector

The Paper Reach survey is an initiative that stems from the need for the Belgian market (agencies and advertisers) to gather solid, up to date, objective data on consumer attitudes and behaviour regarding letterbox mail. More specifically, it concerns addressed advertising mail (Direct Mail, also known as Paper Mail). The data, and more specifically the impact measures, allow for better-targeted campaigns. The study is the result of a task force made up of members from the ACC, UBA, UMA and bpost media. Fieldwork was performed by an independent consultancy Profacts.

  • For the ACC (communication agencies organization) :Yves Van Landeghem, Managing Director – Strategy Director at Leo Burnett
  • For the UBA (advertisers organization) : Simone Ruseler, Knowledge manager, and Zaki Lahbib, media manager
  • For the UMA (media agencies organization) : Bernard Cools, Chief Intelligence Officer at Space, and Remi Boel, Marketing Intelligence Director at OMD

This team was responsible for drafting the specifications, choosing the market research institute, developing the most relevant methodology and validating and interpreting the findings.

A unique approach

In all, eight reference measures (including four new ones*) were highlighted in this new study:

  • Relating to the letterbox:
    • The opening rate
    • The sense of curiosity when opening
  • Relating to Paper Mail media:
    • Reading rate (also known as ‘Net Reach’)
    • *Emotions resulting from receiving Paper Mail
    • *Number of times exposed to the message
    • *Number of readers within the household
    • Reaction rate
    • *Paper Mail life cycle

A daily occurrence

An analysis of the results reveals that 83% of Belgians open their letterbox every working day, which reflects a close relationship between this medium and its target group. Furthermore, upon opening, the main feeling of curiosity is positive for 80% of Belgians.

The same sense of curiosity you feel when you open a birthday present.

A physical means of communication that is welcomed within your home

Other surveys had already shown that Paper Mail, a physical, printed means of communication, represented a welcome break for Belgian consumers, far from the trepidation of the digital world. This means of communication allows them to take stock of the advertising message in a calm, open and respectful manner. It is also the ideal companion for creating a lasting relationship with your clients. According to the Paper Reach survey, 79% of Paper Mail sent is indeed read by the recipient. This is a good start, but it doesn’t end there. The survey also indicated that Paper Mail was not fleeting communication as 50% of it is still present within the home a week later, allowing for several opportunities for exposure. On average, people are exposed to a single Paper Mail four times. Finally, it appears that 59% of Paper Mail caused positive emotions and 48% at least led to action (Google search, visit to the website, visit to the shop, purchase, etc.).



A free, online media tool to take things further

Alongside the goal of creating a new reference measure for Paper Mail, the aim of this survey was also to allow advertisers and agencies to estimate the impact of their Paper Mail campaigns in the best way. This is why the online media tool was developed: www.paper-reach.be. It is free of charge and easily available to access all the data mentioned above, but especially relevant results depending on the choice of sector or target.


A solid methodology, in line with the purpose of the survey

To provide a reliable and recognised new reference measure, the task force preferred an approach with two complementary stages:

Stage 1: ‘Establishment Survey’ Through web and telephone interviews, this component helps to understand and describe general behaviour, attitudes and preferences concerning the letterbox as an advertising medium, but also the participants’ profiles. In all, 4,585 people representing the Belgian population over 18 (CIM golden standard) took part in this first part of the survey, carried out in three waves throughout 2020. A panel of consumers for the second stage was formed based on the respondents from this first stage.

Stage 2: ‘Registering behaviour’ – During this part, 1,119 Belgian consumers filled in a daily online file listing every item of advertising received and indicating their reaction to it. Overall, 5,500 Paper Mail items were registered in five waves throughout 2020. This second part of the survey revealed impact measures for Paper Mail. New waves are also planned for 2021 to continue tracking the behaviour of Belgians in relation to Paper Mail. 

Discover the main elements of the Paper Reach survey in this three-minute video.


Further information:

Benjamin Wattiaux, Senior Market Intelligence Expert, bpost media, [email protected], 0479/76.89.19

Or Emma Declerck, Market Intelligence Expert, bpost media, [email protected], 0474/30.26.00