Make Insert Media Your Choice

When I graduated Fordham in 2002 with my marketing degree, I never would have guessed that I would end up in direct mail advertising, let alone insert media. After all, I was going to work for an agency, maybe something to do with television or radio commercials and develop the next award-winning ad campaign.

But times were tough in spring 2002, and the economy still was trying to recover from the 9/11 tragedy. So when a friend told me about a position in the insert management department at Leon Henry Inc., I gave it a shot.

As I mentally prepared to start my career in direct mail, I tried to muster up what I had learned in the half-hour that was dedicated to direct mail advertising in my marketing and advertising classes. Inserts weren’t even discussed. This probably was because in the pecking order of advertising, direct mail, most of it “junk mail” (yes, I said it), is held in the same regard as telemarketers – unsolicited, intrusive and, most of all, annoying. Nonetheless, it was my first crack at the corporate world, and I figured everyone’s gotta start somewhere.

After working in insert management for about a year, I was asked to move into a position of database management and new business development to expand my horizons of the industry and hone my sales skills.

One day while doing some prospecting, company co-founder Leon Henry said to me, “I want you to think about why a young person such as yourself would or should choose a career in insert media.” Until that moment I really hadn’t given much thought to that idea because unbeknownst to him I didn’t really “choose” insert media; it “chose” me.

Yet, as I gave it some thought, I realized that the little “stepchild” of direct mail hasn’t even reached puberty, and when it reaches adulthood there’s gonna be huge profits. Recent college grads, young professionals and all those who plan on being in the industry for the next 40 years – insert media will be the future of direct mail. Here’s why:

Insert media is cost effective. With all this talk about multichannel marketing campaigns and shrinking budgets, marketing vice presidents are constantly challenged to develop a cost-effective mix of media. However, television, radio and space ads usually eat up most of this budget, and direct mail is the first to get cut. Insert media would let advertisers incorporate direct mail into their campaign, but at a fraction of the cost.

Postal rates keep rising. As postal rates increase, it grows more expensive for direct marketers to reach their target audience. Insert media gives direct mail advertisers a chance to reach the same audience they would through a list rental direct mail campaign without incurring the high costs.

Let’s pretend XYZ Catalog Co. has a list on the market. The cost to rent this list is $120/M plus select fees. Then, add cost for the service bureau to e-mail these names. Add in the merge/purge process, design and printing of the piece, envelopes/wafer seals, lettershop and postage. This equals big money.

Now let’s think about inserts. XYZ Catalog has a package insert program. It’s on the market for $45/M. Design and print the piece, pay the $45/M and ship the inserts to the fulfillment house. You just seriously cut costs, mostly by not paying directly for postage. Everyone wins. Allowing your insert in XYZ’s packages helps XYZ mitigate its shipping fees, you don’t directly pay for postage and you get an implied endorsement.

The Internet. Simply put, the Internet is and will be the major force driving insert media well into the future. The formula is simple. People love shopping on the Internet. They can do it from the comfort of their homes, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And thanks to fancy encryption software, e-commerce is relatively safe. Online shopping equals packages that must be sent. These online retailers then can allow non-competitive third-party inserts in these packages and generate additional revenue as well as including their own insert or catalog driving customers back to the company and the Web site.

More companies sending packages opens more programs for brokers to test or sell to their mailers. We all know the test, test and test again mantra. Also, online shopping involves credit cards. This equals statements. Credit card statements are a great place for inserts. Why? Well, as much as I’d like to toss my bills in the trash like yesterday’s sweepstakes offer, I can’t. I have to open it and physically touch the inserts inside. Again, more opportunities.

Now, for the list veterans who are looking to hang me for what I’ve said, I know I am oversimplifying things and that inserts have drawbacks – namely the little ditty known as “response rates” that no direct marketer wants to talk about. And I’m not saying that traditional direct mail campaigns shouldn’t be part of the marketing mix. I’d just like insert media to receive the attention it deserves.

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