The unlikely insert can return great results

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Insert media√°has always been about leveraging a pre-existing, engaged audience for a targeted message. Aside from the blow-in, the package insert or the statement ride-along, printed inserts find their way into many unlikely places. In all cases it is a format that thrives on understanding not only the target but also the value of good real estate.

For example, Commerce Bank uses tissues to help drive new business. For the past two years, the 30-year old company has placed coupons for $20 or $25 redeemable with the opening of a checking account with direct deposit inside a branded tissue pack.

"The tissue pack is a unique medium, and it's very effective," says Ron Mendoza, vice president of merchandise at Commerce Back, headquartered in Cherry Hill, NJ. "It's the favorite item in all our blitzing efforts."

In fact, of the 600 promotional items in its inventory, Commerce Bank hands out 1 million branded tissue packs a year - an amount bested only by the bank's branded pen, of which 20 million are distributed yearly.

"The advantage to the tissue pack is that it has the ability for a call to action," Mendoza says. "It's effective and transportable."

The tissue packs are produced by AdPack, a division of Itochu International Inc. Pocket-sized, a plastic sleeve surrounds the tissue and is customized with Commerce Bank's logo and messaging. Commerce Bank promotes itself as "America's most convenient bank," with services including office hours seven days a week, free coin counting machines, and online and over-the-phone banking. Commerce Bank has nearly 450 locations throughout New York, Philadelphia, Washington, and South Florida.

The branded sleeve holds the 3-inch by 4-inch coupon, making it a sales vehicle for one of the bank's most challenging accounts to promote - the direct deposit checking account. The tissue pack has done so well that Commerce Bank has plans to debut a pack carrying a $25 plastic gift card for retail transaction, contingent on the opening of a checking account. The launch is planned for mid-October.

A billion dollar industry in Japan, AdPack CEO Steve Jacobs says there has been a "slow-process" of adoption of the tissue pack as an ad vehicle in the US market. The latest trends in usage have included mini-catalog inserts and messages that drive consumers online.

"It's new, it's low tech, not high tech, but it's becoming interactive," Jacobs says. He added that the average response rate credited with a tissue-pack campaign was 5 percent.

"The challenge is finding advertiser ROI measures that people can turn around and be comfortable to invest," Jacobs says. The bank uses coupon codes to measure the campaign's effect, but would not share details with press.

Meanwhile, Christopher McNamara, president of sales and marketing at Medi-Promotions Inc., says his company has come up with an insert strategy that has proven returns for the pharmaceutical industry, according to about 20 third-party studies.

As part of its Medi-Scripts Plus program, the company distributes free prescription pads to more than 200,000 physicians across the country. Pharmaceutical companies place a 4-inch by 6-inch ad every five scripts meaning that the average doctor, who writes 25 to 30 scripts a day, will see an ad five or six times while prescribing medication. This has been shown to increase a brand's drug being prescribed by both first-time and repeat prescribers.

Pharmaceutical companies using the program can target their offers to a particular doctor's specialty. Currently Medi-Promotions has 16 specialties in its program, each with a different circulation. For example, general practitioners have a circulation of 64,000 while neurology is a smaller group at 6,500. A doctor's medical specialty tied to attitudinal data for the doctor, such as whether or not the doctor tends to be a first adopter, helps a large pharmaceutical company determine which drug brand to advertise to each doctor. Medi-Promotions works with all 40 of the top pharmaceutical companies.

At the beginning of next year, the company has plans to work with three or four select brands to print customer coupons on the back of the prescription pads. Richard Zwickel, VP of sales and marketing for Medi-Scripts Plus, says this program will address several of the challenges facing the industry today.

"It's very much a program that is agnostic to a brand's offer," he said. "We haven't met with a marketer yet that doesn't see this as an excellent opportunity."

Consumers are increasingly online, searching, blogging and researching about their medical conditions, and this has increased patient awareness of brand-name drugs.

"[The increase of healthcare marketing on the Web] doesn't impact us," McNamara explains. "The worst that can happen is that the patient can see something online and ask their doctor about a brand-name drug."

Putting customer coupons in the hands of physicians can help a brand stay top of mind during medical conversations about treatment. This technique is also expected to improve a brand-name prescription's chances against a generic treatment.

Zwickel says the company anticipates coupon offers will level the playing field in price between brand-name and generic medication. For example, a brand-name diabetes treatment could gain a lifetime customer by offering $20 off of the first month's supply, in a market where the generic treatment is $20 less.

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