Lights Out Creative
Don’t think of inserts as slips of paper. Rather, to get the right creative vibe, you need to imagine your insert as a snack-size bag of potato chips, a candy bar or a pack of gum. This might sound weird, but stripped to their basic function, inserts are an impulse-buy medium—like a store checkout lane. “By and large, anything in the insert space is an impulse buy,” says Al Stanton, president of Stanton Direct Marketing, an insert media and management firm in Elmira, N.Y. Even with two-step offers, he says, inserts are meant to generate a spontaneous response to send for more information.
Due to this medium’s urgent nature, creative tactics revolve around two main factors: the product and the benefit to the buyer. As Stanton notes, inserts need to immediately answer the age-old question: What’s in it for me?
Copy That’s Light But Strong
Just because insert media audiences tend to review inserts in quick fashion doesn’t mean your creative should look rushed. Ron Bortz, a freelance direct marketing designer in Allentown, Pa., explains that insert design requires excitement to draw attention, but also some focus to drive response. A magazine or catalog blow-in might be just a small card, he says, but you still don’t want people to throw it away.
Overall, the creative approach is offer- and headline-driven, says Pat Friesen, a direct marketing consultant and freelance copywriter in Shawnee Mission, Kan. As such, your headline needs to sell the offer. And since you can’t control how the pieces are inserted into the carrier or how the audience is going to pull out the inserts and view them, Friesen advises marketers to put the headline on both sides of the insert. “You can’t think, ‘This is the front and this is the back,’” she explains.
Typically, you don’t have much room for copy on an insert, says Bortz. So he uses graphic techniques to get the copywriter’s most important benefits across. Stanton agrees, adding that one of the usual mistakes companies make with insert creative is putting too much copy on the piece. “The benefits of the product either are not there or are buried so far in the copy that people aren’t going to take the time to find them,” he explains.