Special delivery: UPS gets into the advertising business

Last week, UPS (UPS) made a few special deliveries. In addition to the more than 15 million packages that the company normally carries every day, Big Brown's drivers in Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Miami, Phoenix, and Washington DC brought selected customers special offers and samples from Sephora, West Elm, Pottery Barn, and nine other popular retailers. The pilot program, which UPS calls "Direct to Door," represents an attempt to expand the company's core business into the advertising arena.

For retailers, the most attractive aspect of Direct to Door may be its audience. While traditional advertising methods -- such as mail circulars or magazine ads -- engage a wide range of consumers, there is no guarantee that the people who see the ads will be comfortable with mail-ordering products or will actually spend their money on premium brands. By using UPS as an advertising method, the companies shortcut the mail order problems; by vetting customer deliveries, the carrier can guarantee that various offers find their way to the most promising customers -- those who regularly receive UPS packages.