Panelist Discusses Shrinking Universes in Alternate Media

DANBURY, CT – A panelist at yesterday’s DMA List/Database Council “Meet the Presidents” Networking Breakfast said that shrinking universes were an ongoing concern for direct marketers in alternative media.

“I would say in alternative media [one of the greatest issues] facing our business this year would be… a shrinking universe,” said Sherry A. Scapperotti, president, PlusMedia LLC, Danbury, CT. “For alternative media, we're printing so far in advance, sometimes three to six months prior, so, in any given quarter, if we were projected to have 1.5 million pieces and now the program is only going to be able to put out 900,000 pieces, we've already printed that material and we need to relocate those pieces.”

Scapperotti cited a book-of-the-month club with time-sensitive offers as an example that could be a major headache.

“They might have a hot release that needs to go out in the first quarter,” she said. “If the universe has decreased, then we have to relocate those pieces pretty quickly. On the brokerage end that's very difficult because you're doing almost double the work for the same dollars. You've already negotiated and placed that business, sent the shipping information, done all of that work and now you have to say, 'Wait a minute, we have to put our pieces on hold at the printer [and] find a like-responding program so that our clients could meet their goals and have those pieces relocated.'”

Scapperotti also mentioned the issue of responsibility.

“Is it the program owner's responsibility to have those pieces moved to a new location?” she asked. “Is it the manager's responsibility to pay to have those pieces moved because they didn't communicate this information to the brokerage firm? Or is it the broker's responsibility for not reacting quick enough [to the information received]?”

Scapperotti said one solution was putting a greater emphasis on testing. She’s been recommending clients move up their test dollars.

“Without tests, [there are] no re-tests,” she said. “The only way to grow a client's business is to continue to test. Let's test new markets, let's test new creative, let's test new categories and move up those test dollars so that we can re-test the second half of the year.”

Programs not “officially on the market” was another topic covered.

“[Go to companies and say], 'Will you accept our client's inserts into your outgoing packages even though this is not something you're accustomed to, but would you be willing to do it?” she said. “We've had some success there.”

The breakfast took place at The Inn at Ethan Allen.

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