Insert Media Buying Guide: Know Today’s Insert Media Terrain
It’s the start of fall, and many of us have just returned from vacation. The demands of our industry may be far from center stage. However, this is a time when many companies are solidifying their plans for the coming year, and understanding the issues that are shaping the insert media landscape is a crucial part of this planning process. Here are a few trends and challenges to consider as you prepare to tackle the holiday season and beyond.
Trend: Catalog Blow-ins
Increasingly, catalogers are opening up their mailings to include insert blow-ins. For instance, in the last year, we’ve seen an addition of approximately 46 new blow-in programs—up from approximately 250 blow-in programs the previous year. Catalogers are learning that accepting one or two noncompetitive advertiser inserts doesn’t hurt their response rates. Furthermore, it adds an important revenue stream without commensurate costs.
Blow-ins are an obvious starting point for catalogers looking to create an insert program, since often they are mailing several million catalogs a year while their package count may be well below an attractive quantity to insert media users. Meanwhile, advertisers are finding the response rates and ROI from inserting into appropriate catalogs are more than acceptable, especially when considering the lower costs associated with these programs in comparison with traditional package insert programs.
Challenge: Get the Word Out
Many of us have fallen into the mind-set that there is a finite number of players out there. As a result, insert media brokers and managers often go after the easy sale: other brokers’ advertisers and other managers’ properties. In the short run, this may help their individual sales and revenue streams; in the long run, this activity brings nothing to the industry. The challenge is to get the message out to all potential advertisers and program owners about the benefits of insert media.
Our industry already has made great strides in addressing this task with the formation of the Insert Media Council, as well as seminars held at the Direct Marketing Association’s annual conference. This is just one challenge, however, that needs to be met on an ongoing basis. It’s imperative to identify marketers not currently taking advantage of this medium, introduce them to its benefits, and successfully bring them into the fold. While this is a hard road, the result is a bigger pie for all.
Trend: New Insert Media Categories
Marketers always are looking for ways to partner with other marketers. This entrepreneurial streak has generated a number of new insert media opportunities of late. One example is the marriage of the traditional package insert and the statement stuffer, joining to form on-the-pack invoice statement programs and their variants. As well, traditional welcome kits to continuity offers have led to the opening of prospect (co-op) mailings and reactivation mailings.
Other nontraditional offerings, such as co-op style mini-catalog mailings, also are popping up. Here, rather than have the advertisers send their preprinted inserts, program owners have these firms send them the artwork and then produce a co-op insert to include in outgoing packages. Costs are much lower for the advertisers, and the program owner is able to control its costs, placement, package weight, etc. These mailings generally are placed in packages that don’t contain collated insert envelopes.
We’re also seeing the introduction of many nontraditional/nondirect response-generated insert media programs. Increasing numbers of financial institutions and utilities are opening up mailings to noncompetitive advertiser inserts.
Challenge: Information Flow
Insert media insiders are notorious for playing things close to the vest. There are only so many slots available in any one program, so there is a sense of limited availability and the tendency to keep program details private. Because of this, it’s difficult for newcomers to find their way. A good broker and/or manager can help, but if the major users and program owners are more forthcoming about their successes, and to a certain extent their failures, it will encourage the entry of new users and programs.
After all, insert media users and programs can benefit from new players in the mix. New users provide new income sources for program owners and lessen their dependency on the usual cast of players. New players also provide the impetus for new program development. Many advertisers will test any new program to the market that meets their demographic and program requirements for size and source.
Trend: Industry Consolidation
With all-too-alarming frequency, our industry is consolidating. Many insert media institutions have been bought by noninsert media corporations looking to gain a foothold in the industry. On the upside, this development may serve to bring new users and applications to the industry.
Challenge: Projections and Reporting
Providing an accurate forecast of its projected packages shipped, statements mailed, catalogs mailed, samples distributed, etc., is a challenge for any program—and its manager. Some programs shy away from committing to projections, as these may fluctuate and fall short of expectations. However, this information is imperative to the advertiser for accurate planning, printing and response estimation. It’s also important for the manager to allow the advertiser to properly market the program and to provide realistically attainable revenue projections to the program owner.
Timely reporting of status to the advertisers by the program managers/owners also is important for a number of reasons. Advertisers use status reports to verify and read results, plan for the future, and make printing adjustments to a particular program. Although program projections are just that—projections—you should strive to make these as accurate as possible.
Keep the Momentum Going
This is both an exciting and demanding time for the insert media industry. We have many new advertising partners, programs and ideas to embrace, and we must work together to build on the momentum this industry has achieved. After all, today’s challenges also represent opportunities, and may very well be tomorrow’s trends.
Barbara Henry is executive vice president for Hartsdale, N.Y.-based insert media and list management company Leon Henry Inc. She can be reached at (954) 255-9717.