As inserts slump, new options appear

Industry experts cite several reasons for a recent slowdown in the retail insert marketplace, among them declining news­paper circulations, rising paper and ship­ping costs, as well as advertisers’ desire to reach younger, text-savvy consumers. Several printers and at least one media company, however, have introduced data-intensive programs designed to convince retailers of the power of print.

“We see a decline in inserts year-over-year, of between 2% and 3% industry wide,” said Maura Packham, VP of marketing at Quebecor World Market­ing Solutions Group.

Printers point to a decrease in pages as the cause. “Retailers are increasing insert page counts for key events like Christmas, Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day while decreasing pages for other, less key, events,” Packham said. Costly gate-folds are also used less often.

There are no reports of any major fall­offs, however. “The newspaper home sub­scriber is one of the retailer’s most valued consumers, and they’re not going to walk away easily from that,” said Rob Mason, chief sales officer at Valassis.

There are positive signs. Hypermarket Meijer is taking in 10 times the number of paper coupons that it did last year, accord­ing to Mason. “That will drive circular and preprint behavior,” said Mason.

Targeted marketing, a direct marketing strategy, is being applied to retail inserts more often to drive relevance.

Tribune Company, which publishes 10 daily newspapers, has started rolling out a program called PrePrint Optimization. It pairs client customer data with subscriber data to target where and how advertisers can effectively reach consumers.

“We know we’re in the age of account­ability and that this was a key component missing from newspaper advertising,” Susan Jacobs, advertising director for major accounts at The Chicago Tribune said, of the company’s data-oriented advertis­ing programs. By linking Tribune data­bases with their own databases, advertisers can insure they are get­ting the best return on investment, she said.

PrePrint Optimiza­tion is too new for results. Tribune Com­pany said retail adver­tising revenues were down 8% for the sec­ond quarter; preprint revenues dipped 9%.

Sometimes analytics show the best medium for an advertiser to be one of Tribune’s non-subscriber publica­tions or its shared mail program. By ensur­ing that advertisements are more targeted, Tribune hopes to increase the relevance of ads for consumers and advertisers.

“Advertisers test different methods to reach consumers to see what works best,” said Kristin Sullivan-Stoesser, sales manager for Direct Delivery+ at Tribune Media Net, Tribune Company’s national sales arm. While no “silver bullet” may exist, “by no means are we sitting back on our laurels,” she continued.

Retail insert printers Quebecor World, Vertis and Valassis have each introduced strategies for print advertising by crunch­ing available data. The goal is to assist retailers to effectively reach their audi­ence through such vehicles as shared mail, targeted direct mail, in-store on-demand coupons and other print solutions.

Opportunities are there for retailers to reach consumers via print, offered Steve Wohlert, SVP of sales at Vertis. “Free-standing inserts are one way to convey a print message. It needs to be part of the mix; not the total mix,” he said.

By its cross-selling initiatives, Valassis shifted $7.3 million in newspaper preprint business to shared mail in the first half of 2008, giving advertisers a way to reach non newspaper-reading households.

This month, Quebecor World will launch Store.driver, a direct-mail piece — designed to drive people into stores — that can be printed in-line with a map, paper gift card and fragrance strip.

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