Avant Card, the company that gave Australians free postcards, is closing

Avant Card managing director Pat Mackle, in 1992 and now, with her final free postcard of Elvis in the middle. Source: Facebook

After 25 years of handing out more than 300 million free postcards in cafes and retailers across Australia, Avant Card is closing, a victim of the Instagram era and a struggling arts sector.

Managing director Pat Mackle, who founded the postcard advertising business in 1992, will close the business this week because it is no longer financially sustainable.

A combination of the rise of digital advertising, funding cuts to the arts (Avant’s major client base), reduced marketing budgets, and a highly competitive media environment brought about the end.

“It is with sadness, tinged with immense pride, that the time has come for the very last Avant Card to grace our displays. Who would have thought that 25 years ago, as an unemployed 28-year-old, we could have come this far, placing a postcard a day into the hands of delighted people,” she said in a statement announcing the closure.

Over the quarter century, the business produced more than 20,000 campaigns. The final card issued, number 20850, is titled “Elvis has left the building”.

Mackle began the company with 10 Sydney cafes as distribution venues, and was Australia’s first free card media company – one of just eight globally, a figure that subsequently increased tenfold. Mackle also bought out the several competitors who emerged locally over the years.

The Avant Card distribution network grew to more than 1,550 venues nationally and went from a one-person operation to employing 28 people. It was a major media company, claiming to reach 6.1 million people weekly.

Government was a major client, with the Australian Tourist Commission commissioning card 8 in 1992. The CSIRO, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Department of Health and even the ATO used Avant Card. The Sydney Film Festival came back as a client every year for 23 years.

Dendy Films commissioned card 74 in 1993 for a film called ‘Reservoir Dogs’ by a young American director, Quentin Tarantino.

Arts companies, galleries and tourism authorities were regular clients and the business also produced mini-magazines, folded posters and display banners.

In a farewell note, Mackle called Avant Card her best friend that gave her a great life and introduced her to so many amazing people.

“I wish to pass on my heartfelt thanks for all the clients that also believed in me, for all the many staff over the years that have been by my side and given a piece of themselves to the business, through the good times, the fun times and the tough times,” she said.

“Although we will be gone, I hope some postcards will be treasured and live on.”

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