New ANA Study Shows Marketers Still Favor Email For Direct Ads | About the ANA | ANA

New ANA Study Shows Marketers Still Favor Email For Direct Ads

And Direct Mail Still Leads in ROI by a Wide Margin

NEW YORK (January 24, 2022) — When it comes to direct marketing media strategies, email remains king among advertisers while social media is gaining ground and running a close second, according to a new ANA study.

The study, Response Rate Report 2021: Performance and Cost Metrics Across Direct Media, revealed that email was the most used medium in all campaign types (B2B, B2C, and split B2B/B2C), averaging an 82 percent usage rate among respondents. Social media came in second at 74 percent.

Beyond email and social media, the report included overall findings for paid search (51 percent), digital display advertising (42 percent), direct mail (38 percent), and SMS (18 percent).

Although email was the top media choice chosen by marketers, its usage has declined 6 percent since the last Response Rate Report was issued in 2018 while social media advertising scored the most significant shift in reported usage, up 17 percent since the last study.

In terms of ROI, survey respondents indicated that while they certainly make use of modern technology in their direct marketing efforts, traditional methods such as sending messages in a letter-sized envelope via the U.S. Post Office can be remarkably effective. Those who did so reported a 112 percent ROI, followed closely by SMS at 102 percent and email at 93 percent.

The mail format that produced the best ROI to “house” lists was postcards (92 percent). The mail format that produced the best ROI to “prospect” lists was letter-sized envelopes (112 percent), the highest of all formats. Other notable formats to prospect lists include dimensional and oversized envelopes, both of which eclipsed 90 percent ROI.

“This important study demonstrates that traditional forms of direct marketing continue to be powerful engines for accelerating brand growth,” said ANA CEO Bob Liodice. “The findings will help marketers plan and optimize their marketing mix and drive sustainable long-term growth.”

Survey respondents also said that overall, they plan to increase their use of email (53 percent), paid search (52 percent), social media (50 percent), and SMS (50 percent) over the next 12 months. Of all media types covered, marketers said they were least likely to anticipate that social media usage would decline.

The study was based on self-reported data collected in an online survey fielded from February through July 2021. More than 1,250 responses were collected, and 581 were qualified and sufficiently complete to be included in the report.


  • B2C campaigns were the most frequent type (42 percent), followed by B2C (31 percent) and split campaigns (27 percent).
  • Marketers comprised 65 percent of respondents, followed by other (15 percent), suppliers of marketing services (11 percent), and agencies (10 percent).
  • The largest industry segment in the survey was technology and communications (23 percent), followed by B2B products and services (20 percent) and health care (10 percent).
  • Most respondents came from small companies with annual revenues of $25 million or less (56 percent), 24 percent came from medium-sized companies (between $26 and $500 million in annual revenue), and 20 percent came from large companies (over $500 million in annual revenue).
  • Sixty-five percent of respondents reported revenue growth at their organizations in the most recently completed fiscal year.

The study was conducted by the ANA’s Data and Analytics Practice. This unit is critical to help members improve their personal and organizational acumen and to build capabilities to become a data-inspired marketing force.

The report also provides a snapshot view of the potential impact the global pandemic had on direct media usage in 2021. The ANA plans to conduct a follow-up study this year to re-establish trend data and provide greater insights on where lasting changes on direct media usage have occurred.

The full report can be accessed here.


The ANA’s (Association of National Advertisers) mission is to drive growth for marketing professionals, brands and businesses, the industry, and humanity. The ANA serves the marketing needs of 20,000 brands by leveraging the 12-point ANA Growth Agenda, which has been endorsed by the Global CMO Growth Council. The ANA’s membership consists of U.S. and international companies, including client-side marketers, nonprofits, fundraisers, and marketing solutions providers (data science and technology companies, ad agencies, publishers, media companies, suppliers, and vendors). The ANA creates Marketing Growth Champions by serving, educating, and advocating for more than 50,000 industry members that collectively invest more than $400 billion in marketing and advertising annually.

John Wolfe
Director of Communications
Office: 212.455.8011
Cell: 914.659.8663