MADISON AVENUE used to have high hopes for the lowly postage stamp. For decades, advertisers imagined that if only the legal barriers against commercial images on postage stamps came down, they could do great things on envelopes, the New York Times reports.
Those obstacles went away last year, when Congress swept aside a law against advertising on stamps and the United States Postal Service authorized businesses to use postage for marketing purposes. The Postal Service renewed the program on May 16, but has yet to see a great deal of revenue from the stamps, which have so far been little more than a niche product.
“The biggest challenge is marketing it and communicating it,” said Nicholas F. Barranca, the vice president for business development at the Postal Service. Particularly among small businesses, he said, “there’s a real interest in being able to personalize their communications.”
Custom stamps are sold through four vendors, and feature a bar code to validate their authenticity; the Postal Service itself does not make them. Stamps.com, the largest provider, charges $18.99 for a sheet of 20 first-class stamps , which, at 41 cents each, has a face value of $8.20. The other custom stamp providers are Endicia, Zazzle and Pitney Bowes.
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