Alternative Print Media Is No Longer the Alternative

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Recently, I responded to an article in the Westchester County Business Journal trashing the direct mail industry. You know, your usual "junk mail" attack. I was pleased that it published my rebuttal and one from the Direct Marketing Association explaining our industry, its size, vitality and usefulness.

While I was researching my reply, I was made even more aware of the number of companies in Westchester, large and small, that use inserts as an advertising medium, distribute inserts as insert programs and broker/manage insert programs. Westchester and nearby Fairfield County, CT, are very heavily involved in the alternative print media in all of its aspects. But so is the rest of the country.

Nationally, there are more than 50 brokerage firms that traffic in inserts. They range from one-person offices to large broker/managers with complete divisions that specialize in inserts.

Depending on one's definition, the number of mailers using inserts as a medium exceed 1,000. Some mailers have their entire sales activity predicated on placing inserts in the appropriate venues. Others use inserts to the supplement their media of choice.

The SRDS and MIN companies have devoted significant resources to providing both print and Internet database access of known insert programs. The DMA has a very active Alternative Response Media Council.

There are probably in excess of 25 billion inserts being distributed yearly. If you figure the average price per thousand distributed inserts at between $10 and $40 per thousand, allowing for heavy negotiation and volume purchases, a very large advertising expenditure is being called alternative print media.

Over the 40-plus years that I have been involved in alternative print media, the growth has been on a positive track providing jobs for a second generation of direct marketers, building business and adding revenue streams to companies.

The brilliant burst of the Internet and e-commerce should not obscure the potency of inserts as an advertising medium. It is time for alternative to be one of the first choices of all direct marketers.

Leon Henry is chairman/CEO of Leon Henry Inc., Scarsdale, NY.

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