What 50 Years in Business Means for Insert Media

Apr 24, 2006 9:49 PM  By

When you consider that there are very few insert/list brokers who have survived 50 years in business, it certainly is a testimonial to being able to earn enough to make the payroll and pay the rent every time it is due. On a serious basis, without undue modesty, it means that I have seen a panorama of newly created media and been able to continue to promote a concept now taken for granted.

This concept, which we now calling insert media and which used to go by the name of “alternative media” (and it still does on the promotional literature of some of our industry partners), has proven to be a very strong and basic means of reaching customers and prospects.

During all the time that insert media has been evolving, the bedrock of its existence has not been shaken. Nor should it be in the future. This premise of one marketer accepting one or more outside, noncompetitive advertisers to ride with his purchase or literature to his customer (or variations on this premise) is being recognized with greater emphasis by the entire advertising world. We, as insert brokers and managers, are offering exactly what the advertising community is looking for: targeted media at a low cost.

Granted, the emphasis is now on the Internet and search advertising with all its bells and whistles, and in its second life, this is going to be a strong and compelling medium for all of us. But inserts with their intrinsic characteristics should be every bit as compelling to the mailer community.

It is up to our industry as articulated by the Direct Marketing Association’s Insert Media Council to promote the medium in a more forceful way. Individual manager/brokers with a few exceptions do not have the resources or the reason to promote the medium. There is a dangerous lack of statistics that can be made readily available to justify the use of the medium to those wavering in their choice of multichannel media.

My 50 years as a broker has from the first day in business been about having two marketers get together through an intermediary (at the beginning, me alone) to mutually market to an audience they both sought and needed.

In the beginning I did not understand the concept as it is now so clear, but I persevered and eventually built the company I have today. The competition and users over the years accelerated the growth of our medium. Pioneers such as Len Holland, Asher Abelow, Mike Bryant, Al Stanton, Fred Singer, and others were, and in some cases still are, important factors in this growth. Large-scale mailers such as Columbia Records, Artistic Greetings, and others too numerous to mention helped all brokerage boats to rise on the increased use of inserts. New mailers such as Oreck, Sharper Image, and many others have increased our visibility and brought in additional insert mailers.

But it is more important than ever that our industry be supported by the DMA. We need to assure those entering as brokers and assistants that there is a future for them. We need to put in place a publicity effort along with the aforementioned deeply needed statistics. Case studies showing the value of insert use need to be developed. Many mailers will speak out if leaders show the way. We need to insist that we have speakers at every Direct Mail Day, seminar, and conference, local and national. Insert Media Day should have its annual date and venue confirmed. An education effort should contact college marketing departments. The list goes on.

My 50 years in business tells me that I, by good luck, picked the right place at the right time, and there should be another 50 years for those who follow to enjoy the fruits of their pioneers’ labor.

Leon Henry is chairman/CEO of the Hartsdale, NY-based list services firm that bears his name.