The Future of Insert Media

Insert media have been around for nearly 50 years. Back when they were known as alternative media, they were primarily a vehicle for low-end offers, inquiries, and continuity offers. Times have changed, of course; here are some trends worth looking at that may determine the future of insert media.

  1. This year’s postal rate increase and the increase expected to go into effect in mid-2007 bring more attention to postal substitutes and cost reductions in mailing and shipping. There has long been a correlation between postage increases and the increasing numbers of insert programs and insert users.
  2. Inserts are now officially part of the mainstream media as acknowledged by the Direct Marketing Association. The DMA is compiling statistics on insert media so that they can be compared with other forms of direct marketing.
  3. The DMA’s Insert Media Council continues to grow in size and has successfully organized three annual Insert Media Days, with more to follow.
  4. High-end merchandise is being sold via inserts in increasing volume by an expanding list of merchants. Inserts have had a history of “me-tooism”: The examples of companies selling high-end merchandise has resulted in, and will continue to result in, other mailers testing inserts.
  5. Insert copy and creative have been relatively rudimentary to date. Now merchants are exploring the use of cobranding, special printing, special sizes and other attention-grabbing devices.
  6. The Internet will certainly have a place in the insert world. Or is it vice versa? While an increasing number of mailers use inserts to direct recipients to their Website without any mention of mail response, it is not yet a trend–but it will be.
  7. Cross-currents in list brokerage/management services paint a confusing picture. On one hand, there are a growing number of for the most part smaller firms entering the marketplace. Add to this the brokers who just happen to be asked to manage the insert program for a list owner and you have an increase in the number of firms providing insert marketing. But with the mergers taking place within the list industry, there may be a seismic shift taking place that none of us will be aware of until it is over.
  8. The Internet has yet to replace the paperwork of placing insert media orders. The need for common forms and terminology is still evident but slowly giving way to uniformity, which in turn will help lower costs for brokers and managers.
  9. Catalogers are accelerating their use of inserts, especially as catalog bind-ins and blow-ins. Advertising space is a logical next step along with various trade-outs among mailers and catalogers.

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

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