Why Canada Post was promoting letter-writing in the email era

There were fewer and fewer letters causing more and more worry at Canada Post two decades ago.

20 years ago, Crown corporation launched campaign to boost volume of letters being sent

Two decades ago, Canada Post had seen a 10 per cent drop in the volume of letters over a five-year period. 0:21
There were fewer and fewer letters, and that was causing more and more worry at Canada Post.

Twenty years ago, the Crown corporation had seen a 10 per cent drop in the volume of personal letters flowing through its system over a five-year period.

And that loss of letters was also causing a loss on its bottom line of some $30 million annually, according to a report that aired on The National in February of 1999.

In a bid to stem the decline, Canada Post launched an ad campaign aimed at getting Canadians to pick up pens and paper once again.

The ads used language that drove home the idea that there was something special about writing something on paper, rather than typing it in an email.

"We feel that if people get back to the art of letter-writing, it's a little more personal," Canada Post spokesman John Caines explained to CBC News.

As the ads put it: "Nothing says it better than a letter."

Nothing? What about email?

Two decades ago, it seemed unlikely that "snail mail" could have a renaissance. 0:36
Yet the consumers who CBC spoke to about the issue were skeptical of the supposed benefits of traditional paper-based communication — citing the fact that email didn't require postage or a trip to the mailbox.

That was the view of a University of Toronto professor who spoke to CBC as well.

"I think that when most Canadians sit there and watch Canada Post extolling the virtues of old-fashioned letter-writing, they're going to laugh into their popcorn," said Liss Jeffrey, alluding to the fact that the Canada Post ad campaign was airing in movie theatres.

The National's report on the Canada Post ad campaign ended with a look at the bigger challenge the postal service was facing: a permanent change in the way Canadians communicated.

"Home internet use doubled in Canada last year. Each new connection potentially means fewer customers and less revenue for Canada Post," reporter Norman Hermant told viewers.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.