Insert Media Is About to Explode
Insert media has come a long way from the time Len Holland, the grandfather of this medium, first began placing inserts for Popular Club Plan in the 1960s. Now there are package inserts, ride-alongs, statement stuffers, card packs, newspaper inserts (FSIs) and the increasingly popular blow-ins. What used to be called "alternate" media, has quietly gained more significance over the years, but without many direct marketers really taking notice.
With more than 1,500 insert programs on the market, many unique, non-traditional insert situations and billions of inserts being placed annually, doesn't insert media deserve to be considered mainstream? A newcomer recently asked one of the legends, who has been working in the insert area for 40 years, why these media are referred to as "alternative."
For those who have been working in this area for years, the progress was taken for granted. We accept the fact that major mailers place millions and millions of inserts annually, so why the sudden change in the status quo? Our new direction includes a much wider vision: a broader scope of advertisers; a major promotional effort; unified descriptions of insert programs; uniform insertion orders and contracts; uniform billing; and partnership marketing.
Giving Insert Media a Voice
As of the summer of 2002, insert media has a voice of its own, and a significant one. Here at the Alternate Response Council, we began raising awareness on a wider scale at the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) Annual Conference in San Francisco last fall. We had a cocktail party with about 80 people packed into a small suite—all with an interest in "alternate" media. The following Sunday morning at 10 a.m., we scheduled an open forum to discuss the future of insert media and the concept of a name change.
There were direct marketers from all phases of the industry voicing their opinions for a new direction that would define insert media on the basis of a description other than "alternative."
Well-known mailers in categories like books, music, credit cards and children's products place millions of inserts, and consider insert media a major source for prospecting. Some of these mailers use insert media to generate 75 percent of their new customer acquisitions. With successes like these, it's obvious why we want to spread the word for more advertisers to test this medium.
A Day All Its Own
A few of us met with DMA President Bob Wientzen last December to discuss the future of insert media. We were armed with facts, figures and letters of support, but we didn't really need any of the background material. For a couple of years, Wientzen had been thinking that insert media really needed to be expanded. In an effort to give it more attention and recognition, we came up with the idea of Insert Day. The concept was well received. We are now working on creating an event that will mirror the success of List Day or Circulation Day but with an obvious focus on the many aspects of insert media.
With the leadership of the Alternate Response Media (ARM) Council and the support of the DMA, we're putting together a day filled with informative sessions—mailers giving case studies and direct marketers discussing niche insert opportunities. There will be an opening session lead by some of our own historians who have been around to see the positive changes. There will be an overview of insert media programs and a session with vendors from the printing and lettershop side of the business. We also plan to include newer vehicles like ethnic marketing, C&D markets (shared mail programs that reach rural locales) and sampling programs focused on the package goods industry. Insert Day will showcase the advantages of shared mailings and the success stories that have developed.
Trade publications also have pledged their support by running online listings and giving us space for expanded coverage of insert media. To reach a more expansive audience for Insert Day and to increase the visibility of insert media overall, we plan on involving major newspapers as well as local ones in the Westchester, NY, area where Insert Day will be held on September 10, 2003. Insert media has never been seriously promoted in the past, and that is about to change.
In an economy where spending is flat, advertisers are cutting back, magazine ad sales are down and major catalogers are filing for Chapter 11, insert media is strong. Its strength focuses on cost effective ways to generate sales. The major direct marketing companies have active alternate media divisions. Printing companies and mailing houses can attest to the extra revenue created from inserts.
It's a profitable industry for an elite group of mailers, program owners and vendors. Many direct marketers have offered their support for our new vision. Collectively, we are about to change the scope of participation through the explosion of the new "alternative," insert media.
Arlene Rosen is president and founder of Alternate Response Associates Inc. She has been in direct marketing for 13 years and has served as chair and co-chair of the ARM Council since 1999. She can be reached at (212) 245-6691, or e-mail at email@example.com.