Marketers Can’t Ignore Insert Media Any Longer

Insert media has come a long way from the days that brokers like Leon Henry, Asher Abelow and Len Holland were able to strike major deals by being the first ones to create or find out about an insert opportunity. In the early days, it was all about research and being first.

Who could have guessed what a big business it would become. Today, there are dozens of brokers serving clients, where the client’s needs are being driven by customer acquisition that relies largely on bringing in prospects via insert advertising.

How did this happen? Largely, it happened very quietly.

Insert media has almost always been dominated by marketers who saw the beauty of piggybacking an advertisement with something that was reaching an already qualified prospect. Direct mailers already knew and understood the attraction of reaching targeted audiences through solo mail to specific lists.

Though we all knew that pricing eventually would rise – paper, postage, printing – who could have guessed that the whole formula would become so expensive, and that response rates would be so impossible to sustain, that direct mailers would need to find other solutions to continue bringing in new customers? It was the insight, and the luck, of some of those early users that allowed them to grow significant businesses while others struggled with rising costs.

The insert world today is dominated by a few large categories – credit cards, insurance mailers, book clubs, online services, telecommunications, publishers and dozens of other direct marketers. One concept holds true of most of their programs. The ones that are first in their category tend to derive the most benefit from the growth of their programs.

Most of these companies were testing in the early years and have treated their insert programs with respect, not as an afterthought. They have applied the principles they’ve learned in direct marketing and have worked them. They have tested. They tested creatives; they tested formats; they tested offers. They stuck with it and are now enjoying the fruits of their labor.

Despite that, many direct response marketers are still sitting on the sidelines, looking to their competitors to blaze the trails. Wake up! You spend a lot more money on branding, building awareness and growing market share than you ever will spend on insert advertising. And when you’re done, you’ll know exactly what you got for your money.

Most mailers today are concerned about getting the most from their suppliers. Though few ad agencies seem to spend much time promoting the value of insert media (could that have to do with the relatively lower billing it generates?), a number of savvy brokers consult on creative, research and buy media, analyze and build programs in exchange for the media placement.

Can you afford to ignore a medium that might provide you with the same customers that you get from other media, but at a lower cost?

According to an Alternate Response Media program at last fall’s Direct Marketing Association Annual Conference & Exhibition, inserts represent in excess of 7 billion annual circulation. How could a marketer ignore that potential?

One of our clients had credited insert media with changing the way it did business. In its heyday, the company generated 100,000 inquiries monthly. Another speaker at last fall’s show mentioned a customer that now gets 35 percent of its total revenue from inserts but, more importantly, would not be making money today had it not started testing a few years ago.

Another manager mentioned how his customer relies on insert revenue to help handle shortfalls from product sales.

If you tried insert media in the past, you owe it another look. If you haven’t tried it yet, you’re following instead of leading. You might not be ahead of the wave, but at least you can show you know a “no brainer” when you see one.

The DMA has recognized insert media. It’s even getting its own day. For the first time, Insert Media Day will be Sept. 10 at the Rye Town Hilton in Rye, NY.

College students are taking direct marketing courses. Maybe insert media will become a major someday. Right now, I have a college freshman looking to major in marketing. Wonder if he’s thought about a career in insert media? It has been a very good business to be in. n

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