Don't Let Insert Media Pass You By

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Insert media is not new to the direct response industry, but after a half century it is gaining some long overdue recognition. With industry legends still involved after 50 years of promoting this marketing concept and corporate acquisitions catching recent trade publication news, insert media has moved from an "alternative" source of customer acquisition and sales to a mainstream vehicle for many DR companies. Everyone in direct response should take a closer look at this media mix and consider at least testing it in future marketing plans.

Why is it becoming so well recognized? Education. The Direct Marketing Association's Insert Media Council has taken a strong position in the past four to five years to promote the values of this medium through educational luncheons and the creation in 2003 of Insert Media Day. The council developed a campaign launched with the first Insert Media Day and changed the name from "alternative media" to a more positive and encompassing "insert media."

Other factors play a role in insert media's growth. We see a boost in interest every time our industry goes through a postal rate increase or an increase in paper costs. Both factors immediately affect marketers that use direct mail as their main vehicle to generate sales.

Insert media is a win-win for both parties, the advertiser and the program owner. Program owners provide a marketing vehicle and typically reap financial rewards. Advertisers benefit from a shared pricing structure that is more economical than going direct to their target audience via the U.S. Postal Service, with the full burden of costs on the advertiser's shoulders.

For the program owner, insert media can generate revenue similar to list revenue for list owners. We suggest you seek a professional manager that specializes in insert media. As with many aspects of our industry, having a knowledgeable professional working on your behalf can save you many headaches and help you generate greater revenue than you could on your own. An experienced professional understands the marketplace and the players involved and can target advertisers and brokers appropriate to participate in your program.

It is crucial to understand all the mechanics necessary in providing a complete program, whether it's for a package insert program, catalog inserts, ride along or any of the numerous other possibilities. Ensure you consider all additional costs to operate a program of this magnitude: insertion, postage implications, printing, etc. The most important factor for program owners is that they always should be in control - they have the right to accept or refuse any offer for any reason.

Advertisers new to insert media should evaluate many aspects. Compare rates, not only insertion but cost of developing creative and providing printed material to meet specifications of various media. Also study demographics of audience reached and potential response rates for various media selections.

Again, a professional broker experienced in insert media can benefit the advertiser. Sure, you pay a commission for their services, but usually this is recouped easily in their expertise. An experienced broker knows the various media options that would be worthy of your consideration and understands "what the market will bear" from a price point - being able to negotiate reasonable rates from the beginning.

Not only are rates important, but so is an understanding of the areas that make most sense to test. You can save upfront expense if you carefully identify your most beneficial media segments and, within those, identify the best market test segments. When evaluating media segments, consider overlap where you can use the same creative size/offer, saving you upfront expense on development cost.

Communicate desires with your printer and seek suggestions and recommendations. The printer's experience may save you money and let you print and insert more pieces for the initial budget cost than you projected. Printers also love to show you new technology they may have available and sometimes you can get in on or near the ground floor to use new, exciting formats that could provide boosts in your offer.

Like any other direct response offer, you need to test ... test ... test! Test creative, size of piece and offer. Different programs allow different quantities for tests. You often can create an A/B or even an A/B/C test to evaluate what options work best for you.

Opportunities seem endless for insert media. Our trade publications have picked up the movement by recognizing opportunities for editorial and advertising sections specific to insert media. The DMA is collecting survey information regarding insert media to compare it with other media segments in the industry. The recent acquisition by a large agency of a firm that specializes in insert media in order to have the in-house expertise for existing clientele certainly is interesting. How well the agency uses this expertise for its broad client base is yet to be determined.

I believe insert media has been "flying low" for many years and is about to burst out of its camouflage cover, becoming one of the fastest-growing media segments in the next 10 years. Continued evaluation of the cost to obtain new customers will be a major factor in looking at different options. New opportunities will unfold in co-branding, endorsements, sharing of Web exposure and new and exciting program formats not even thought of yet. They will be driven by the desires of advertisers to reach new heights, the creativeness of industry professionals who will look for new challenges and the willingness of program owners to open the gates of opportunities for the benefit of all parties involved.

Don't let this exciting media pass you by. The DMA's Insert Media Council has exciting opportunities ahead. Look at the DMA Web site for specific details at www.the-dma.org.

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