My campaign to stop the rise of “The Householder” direct mail spam

 In advertising

I am starting a campaign to expose the simply lazy, and sometimes downright sneaky tricks that companies are playing to get their direct marketing material through your letterbox.

Frankly, in 2013, and the age of big data and social media, to have a clean, window faced envelope dropped through my letterbox (with a big sign on it that says “no junk mail”) addressed to “The Householder” smacks of lazy and desperate marketing.

UPDATE: 18:20 Sunday 7 April The Marketing Manager of Hyperoptic @1withredhair (Sunita Sharma) has been in touch. I will send her my details and we will see if their mailings stop.

Virgin Media – over to you.

The winner of the lazy marketer of the decade would go to Virgin Media here in the UK.

I can only appeal to Jeff Dodds, Virgin’s Chief Marketing Officer to look closely at these “The Householder” letters and take them out of the marketing mix. They just show Virgin Media to be desperate and lazy marketers.  After probably 10 or 15 of these, over the last 2 years, I am STILL not interested in your products.

We have tried sending them back to Virgin Media to get them to stop – but they keep coming!

The latest piece of lazy marketing from Virgin Media came through the door yesterday.

A clean white (no hint it was from Virgin Media), window faced envelope to make it look “official”, addressed ever so personally to me as “The Householder”

This is just a sneaky trick. It has ensured that I WILL NEVER buy from Virgin Media, and has also prompted me to write this blog post in the hope that the smart marketers will see sense and condemn this practice.

Those of you reading this will surely point me to the UK’s Mailing Preference Service that can be used to stop unwanted direct mail.

Even this service cannot stop mail addressed to “The Occupier/Householder” – or don’t want to. It has been run by the Direct Marketing Association for the last 20 years and quoting from their website –

The Mailing Preference Service (MPS) is a free service set up 20 years ago and funded by the direct mail industry to enable consumers to have their names and home addresses in the UK removed from lists used by the industry. It is actively supported by the Royal Mail and all directly involved trade associations and fully supported by The Information Commissioners Office.

However even this service cannot stop the rise of “The Householder” direct mail – see below (click to enlarge).

Even though under section 11 of the Data Protection Act I can ask that companies stop sending me junk mail, as “The Householder” is not my actual name, I cannot ask them to stop. If I try and add “The Householder” or “The Resident” to the MPS form it does not accept it. Click to see in more detail.


So companies such as Virgin Media, Hyperoptic (2 pieces of spam last week) and JAC Strattons continue to pollute our mailboxes with completely unwanted and irrelevant material – and there is nothing we can do about it.

Thanks Brian Doherty from Hyperoptic for these 2 pieces of spam, a perfect excuse to highlight your company.

And Neil Jackson, Lettings Manager at JAC Strattons – I will never ever contact you, I promise, so please take me off your spam list.


Well perhaps if we name and shame these lazy marketers, they might see sense and also the Direct Marketing industry might wise up that their tactics are sneaky and they will stop. Wishful thinking perhaps….

In 2013, if you got an email or a tweet addressed to “The reader” what would you do?

You would probably ignore it.

In fact Direct Mail is probably the least effective advertising method around based on what I have seen – 100% of the DM pieces I have received above I have ignored, and not made a purchase, and frankly never will.

As an industry they keep pumping billions of articles out to “The Householder” expecting we will feel like this is an intelligent way of getting our attention.

Lazy marketing must stop. You are actually pushing negative marketing messages on us.

Will you join me on my campaign to rid our letterboxes of “The Householder” spam?

Leave a comment below and I also look forward to hearing from @JeffDodds, @VirginMedia, @Hyperoptic, and @JACStrattonsNHG

While you are here ...


London-based Practical Futurist and former IBM Global Managing Partner, Andrew is a popular and sought-after presenter and commentator on issues around digital disruption and emerging technologies. He is a multiple TEDx & International Keynote Speaker. Watch his speaking showreel here, enquire about availability & fees here or listen to his latest Podcast - "The Practical Futurist Podcast" on your favourite app.

Showing 17 comments
  • @sevendotzero

    London Calling » My campaign to stop the rise of “Dear Householder” direct mail spam via @andrewgrill


    Hi Andrew,

    Thank you for highlighting that you do not want to receive mailings from Hyperoptic and please accept our apologies for any inconvenience caused. Please be assured that you have been removed from our mailing list and that you will receive no future
    correspondence from Hyperoptic.

    Best wishes,

    Sunita Sharma
    Head of Marketing, Hyperoptic

  • Andrew Grill

    Sunita, thank you for your quick response – nice to know Hyperoptic has a good social presence.
    I can’t wait to see how long Virgin Media and JAC Strattons takes to respond (if at all). Full marks for your response.

  • @pmobiweb

    London Calling: My campaign to stop the rise of “The Householder” direct mail spam: I am starting a campaign t…

  • @chrismwoods

    .@andrewgrill begins anti-spam campaign re direct mailers such as @virginmedia (I can feel your pain there, Andrew)

  • John Smith

    Stupid Hyperoptic. I’ve contacted them on multiple occasions by phone and follow-up by post and they still persist on sending me junk mail. Disgusting behaviour.

  • disqus_QV5pNExXeH

    Hi Andrew,

    You have my whole-hearted support. I am sick and tired of returning mail to Virgin media, post unpaid, asking be be removed from their mailing list. I thought Richard Branson was supposed to be an intelligent man? Not bright enough to realise how counter-productive his marketing strategy is. I wouldn’t buy from Virgin Media if it were the only option left. The evidence on the web is overwhelming – Virgin are doing untold damage to their image in the market-place with their marketing campaign. They just don’t get it! I’m sure I’m in the majority of ‘Householders’ that object strongly to receiving this endless flood of unwanted mail.

    I hope that your campaign, and those of other like-minded people, will quickly gather momentum, and that we will soon see an end to this pernicious marketing strategy.


  • Andrew Grill

    Clive, I don’t think Virgin care about their brand image.

  • Graeme Hutchison

    Hi Andrew, I to receive these unwanted mailings, I have asked numerous times to stop, I have RTS, I have tweeted, emailed and phoned, but to no avail. Each time I am directed to the RM website where I can opt out of unaddressed mail (which is not opting out of VM’s mail)

    This is now harassment, it is alos against the law to send junk mail with out an ‘opt out’ I really hope they stop – as a result of this I wont be using any of Richard Branson’s services.

  • Andrew Grill

    Clearly Virgin don’t care about the damage they are doing to their brand. I think the only practical way to get Jeff Dodd’s attention (CMO at Virgin) would be to start sending him unsolicited mail every day to his private home address.

    Only then would he understand first hand how annoying it is.

  • Shaun

    After informing them you wish for them to stop, any two further unwanted communications would then be classed as harassment, under the protection from harassment act 1997. At which point i then write to them to inform them of my terms and conditions, which include things like, £35 fee for opening unwanted mail, £50 for every call I have to make to them to advise them of their continuing harassment and a little paragraph at the end which says that failure to reply to this notice, and/or any further communication received from Virgin Media or whoever will indicate their willingness to be bound by my terms and conditions. Gotta love a tacit contract. Then I send them my bill with copies of all supporting evidence, times and dates of any calls or letters etc and inform them if they do not send appropriate payment within 14 days, then I will issue the County Court papers to take legal action under the protection from harassment act 1997. Once money is involved they generally stop rather quickly.

  • Andrew Grill

    Shaun, I had considered this until I read about the campaigher who originally received compensation from Virgin, only to have it overturned see

    The ONLY way to stop this is to get the personal home address of Jeff Dodds (Virgin Media CMO) and send him thousands and thousands of pieces of his own mail – only then would he agree enough is enough.

    Who is game enough to do this?

  • Jessy Owen

    count me in!

    edit: actually, he’s meant to leave early 2014, isn’t that now?

  • Zoe Goodchild

    I am sick of these unwanted mailings. I have sent them back, addressed to Richard Branson and I have asked the postman to stop delivering them, but to no avail.

    What really annoys me is not just this sneaky intrusion in my home, but the amount of paper which is wasted, number of trees which have to be felled to produce this white paper, the waste of energy, waste of resources, waste of our time and the time wasted in the delivery system.

    Not only that, my mother was with Virgin but she still kept getting letters asking her to join! She has since cancelled her subscription and now moved to another provider.

    Don’t they care for our beautiful planet?

    It’s high time that the Government steps in and stops this continuous harassment.

  • Davepeers

    I’ve sent Tom.Mockeridge(at)virginmedia dot co dot uk (CEO) a bill for £100 per item under a tacit contract, having given him 42 days notice to stop sending me junk, contrary to the Data Protection Act.
    Small Claims Court action pending.

  • Andrew Grill

    Irony that you disguised his email address here so as not to be harvested by spammers!

  • Davepeers

    Yes, unlike Mr Mockeridge I do have a code of ethics! 🙂

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