Coming to a 'webisode' near you, the US Postal Service

High definition "webisodes," RSS feeds, podcasts, and iTunes downloads will be integral elements of a new image-making campaign for the 256-year-old US Postal Service.

The new, multiple award-winning "Mark of the Eagle" campaign hardly represents the first time the US government agency has stepped to new technologies over the past two-and-a-half centuries. But instead of automating processes such as sorting and processing mail, the USPS' latest move is geared to drawing more business among new generations who have a lot more communications options open to them than just popping a letter into a physical mailbox.

Taking a sneak peek at one Webisode, BetaNews found that the series satirizes the computers and other machines which consumers and postal workers alike increasingly depend on for getting things done. Meanwhile, the USPS package pick-up guy is cast as a hero. The pesky computers portrayed in the webisodes came from existing Post Office stock.

All that's missing from Episode I of Mark of the Eagle is a Quinn Martin-style intro with the voice of Hank Simms.

In the first webisode in the campaign, a copy machine appears to come alive, spewing out packages that careen into an office space in an avalanche.

Have computers ever gotten in your way, too? Who could answer 'No'? Maybe the Postal Service is trying to bond with us here.

But the main message behind "Mark of the Eagle" -- a series that carries the witty subtitle of "Epic Web Saga" -- is a new wrinkle on a very old adage you might have heard somewhere along the way. This time around, neither rebellious computers -- nor hail, sleet, or any of the rest of it -- shall prevent the USPS from delivering the mail.

Actually, people today seem to be relying almost as much as their ancestors on snail-mail, anyway. According to a recent study by InnoMedia, commissioned by the USPS, 18-to-24-year-olds get an average of 11.6 pieces of mail each week, whereas 45-to-54-year-olds receive an average of 24.1. People in the 25-to-34-year-old and 35-to-44-year-old brackets fall somewhere in the middle as to the amount of snail-mail they get.

Also according to the study, 82% of "Gen-Y-ers" and 70% of "Gen-X-ers" sort through their snail-mail immediately. Another 68% of "Gen-X-ers" and 73% of "Gen-Y-ers" have used coupons received in the mail.

But people are also accessing online video, RSS feeds, and iTunes, and the USPS knows that. Consequently, the Postal Service will post the HD video webisodes for four consecutive weeks on a Web site designed by Nashville-based Magnetic Dreams.

Podcasts will be offered to subscribers. Users will also be alerted to the webisodes through RSS feeds, and the segments will be available for download at Apple's iTunes store.

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