How to Buy FSIs
By Alicia Orr Suman
Open the Sunday paper and out pour pages of coupons and sales circulars—including offers from traditional direct marketers: collectibles, personalized products and credit cards, to name a few. But just how do direct marketers get their offers into this wide-reaching and relatively affordable medium?
What to Buy
More than 60 million free-standing inserts, or FSIs, circulate in newspapers every week. Because of their huge circulation, this medium reaches a significant percentage of the population, at home, with the Sunday newspaper.
"The vehicle is well used by many marketers," confirms Lois Attisani, senior account executive at the brokerage and management firm Leon Henry Inc. For catalogers, FSIs can be a great lead generator, while selling a product at the same time, thereby offsetting the cost of the program. Attisani adds that FSIs also can be a learning tool for newer direct marketers. "Say you have a product and aren't sure how to sell it; testing the FSI is a good proving ground," she explains.
When placing your ads, it's important to realize that the type of product plays a role in what type of circulation (USA Today vs. Christian Science Monitor) works for each direct marketer. "Each product may have a different market response pattern," explains Al Stanton, president of Stanton Direct Marketing.
Regional differences also can affect results. While your product may not appeal to city dwellers in the metro New York area, it may do well in central Ohio.
There's such a vast array of FSI media that this is one area of buying where a broker or consultant may be especially useful in determining what newspapers and regions to target.
"A broker could suggest that [a] new client, first time out, might be able to position their product in as many newspapers in C & D areas [as possible], giving them a good range." To test a broad range of markets, use the less densely populated C & D locales, not the more urban A & B counties where you'll have to buy more inserts and therefore won't be able to afford the range.