Direct tactics of inserts can inform branding spend: panel

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NEW YORK - In a new media landscape where most advertising spend is scrutinized, delegates at the Direct Marketing Association's Insert Media Day affirmed that the direct marketing practice has much to offer the industry at large.

This was emphasized during a panel on the trends in insert media moderated by Gina Valentino, owner of Hemisphere Marketing, Kansas City, MO.

"One of the biggest changes I've seen is the need to measure ROI," said Stewart Elliott, advertising columnist at the New York Times. "There has been a push for accountability among all CMOs, CEOs and all the other C-levels that are out there."

Doug Guyer, president of new business development at Berwyn, PA-based International Direct Response Inc., said there are still silos within companies between direct and brand marketing. He talked about the need to educate companies that were not used to scaling their spend in relation to tests and instead renewed ad contracts based on a fixed yearly budget.

There are, he and co-panelist Mr. Elliot agreed, companies that "get it" and are able to combine branding with sales accountability.

"Once a brand advertiser gets a taste of direct then that accountability and the tangible-ness of results can really appeal," Mr. Guyer said.

Benjamin Quigley, director of marketing at Vonage, spoke about his company's use of both tactics in its insert strategy. He said the objectives were to build the brand and then get the sales. Vonage's brand message - "One smart decision" - is not used directly in its insert strategy, but the logic and feel is still carried over, according to Mr. Quigley.

For example, the standard insert for the company now features the phrase "Keep your phone number, lower your phone bill."

"I'm a huge fan of insert media," Mr. Quigley said. "It can feed into the brand work that you are doing and inform it."

Vonage's inserts have done well with women as the primary decision makers in the household. Mr. Quigley declined to share the actual volume of inserts that the company does but said that it was "substantial." Testing plays a large role in Vonage's insert strategy.

"The reason we don't go overboard with the brand is because we tested it - it doesn't go over well," Mr. Quigley said.

Sam Wheeler, director of advertising and partnerships at Amazon.com, said his company also relies heavily on testing to get results for the e-commerce site as well as its retail partners.

Mr. Wheeler said that the company ran A/B tests for creative in internal as well as third-party advertiser offers and could have results within a few hours.

"We're very nimble … we don't make any decisions at our company unless we have the data behind it," he said.

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