Insert Media Buying Guide: Inserts Mean Business for Information Products Company
Nestled in the rolling hills of Virginia, Information Products Co. is the brainchild of president John Alba, who started his mail-order career in the catalog business. Based on his experience identifying which best-selling products would sell effectively via inserts, Alba in 1995 developed a mail-order company that sells name/address labels and personalized children’s products—such as name art and stickers—entirely through insert media.
Alba estimates that his firm places 50 million inserts monthly, working with Stanton Direct Marketing for both brokerage services and management of its own insert programs.
Hallie Mummert, Target Marketing’s editor in chief, spoke with Alba to learn what’s working for a company that lives and dies at the hand of insert media.
Target Marketing: What types of insert media programs do you use?
John Alba: I use a bunch of different media. The best and most expensive is package inserts. It works the best because you know the person is going to see [your insert] since they’ll open the package they ordered … that’s red-hot. The next best is statement stuffers, because the person is going to open their bills. I also use ride-alongs … and then cooperatives. The worst programs for [my product] are catalog blow-ins and phone book ride-alongs. They just don’t work [consistently], but I’ll take them if they’re priced right.
TM: How often do you test new inserts?
JA: Constantly. I [run inserts] in newspaper FSIs once a week and in cooperative mailings once a month. I always have new tests out there, but rarely do tests beat the basic [control]. But you have to test, because you never know what’s going to work better. The creative [team] thinks [testing success] is about the right word or color, but it’s not. It’s about the right product.
TM: How many brokers do you work with?
JA: Several, but I mostly work with three main brokers. It’s always good to use more than one, because they know they’re not the only one [which keeps them competitive]. Also, each one finds something different [to test] than the others.
TM: What is your biggest challenge in using insert media programs successfully?
JA: My biggest problem is that sometimes the results aren’t consistent. In other words, if [my insert] is riding along with a credit card statement, it’s going to the same people regularly [which produces a regular response pattern]. Sometimes, I get a flaky result, and generally it means that something happened at the lettershop during the insertion process.
The lettershop is paid by the program owner and not me—if it was me, I’d have fired many of them—so I don’t have any control over the situation.