Live From Insert Media Day: Insert Pros ‘Rally’ in Westchester

Rye Brook, NY — After a 10-month-long battle, insert marketers formally proclaimed victory on Sept. 10 during the Direct Marketing Association’s inaugural Insert Day, in which the DMA’s Alternate Response Media Council formally changed its name to the Insert Media Council. Inserts, of course, are nothing new. According to the DMA, Popular Club Plan was the first direct marketer to sell via a package insert more than 40 years ago. But package inserts, blow-ins, card decks, billing statements, and other forms of inserts have become more prominent in recent years. The DMA says that seven billion units of alternate media are placed in to the 1,500- plus insert programs on the market.

During sessions held throughout the day, speakers such as insert veterans Leon Henry, CEO/chairman of Leon Henry Inc., Arlene Rosen, president of Alternate Response Associates, and Robin Lebo, president of Lebo Direct and a former circulation manager for electronics cataloger Crutchfield, all pointed to the mainstream direction inserts are headed in light of declining response from traditional catalog and direct mailings. For reasons well beyond building up their own respective bottom lines, most speakers called fellow insert service providers, mailers, list owners, and others involved in inserts to step up and take note that the time has never been better for inserts — both for revenue generation and prospecting.

“More money is being allocated to insert media to find more cost-effective ways to do business,” said Jeff Holland, president of alternate response media marketer Vertical Media Group, during a session. “Insert media has grown to the point where it can offer more than $1 billion annually in revenue. The ‘understudy’ has finally taken center stage.”

In his comments, Henry noted that the Insert Council gains an executive director “and more DMA attention,” he said. “We also gain a degree of uniformity, such as contracts, payment dates, a glossary of terms — all of which will be clarified because we’ll all be in the same boat.” As a result, he says the cost of doing business should decline for insert marketers as paper work decreases.

In her overall take on the state of the insert industry since she entered it in 1994, Robin Neal, vice president of sales for PlusMedia, said that inserts have gone from “an afterthought to a channel recognized for its own budget.”

And in her view of the industry, Sandra Roscoe, senior vice president/partner for Singer Direct, said she’s seen “huge growth” of catalog blow-ins inside catalogs this year. “Catalogers,” she said, “are screaming, ‘How can we get these in?’ They’re looking for catalog blow-ins to increase their bottom line.”

As an example of a cataloger succeeding with blow-ins, Patty Davis, director of customer acquisition for multititle apparel and home goods cataloger Norm Thompson Outfitters, pointed out how the company’s insert revenue has increased since 2000 from a little more than $50,000 in revenue to more than $700,000 this year. Since last year alone, the company’s insert revenue has more than doubled due primarily to Norm Thompson’s successful entree to catalog blow-ins.

The company started the program this year by blowing in offers of its own catalogs inside one another. In building up the company’s insert program over the past four years, Davis says that she’s had to work on building relationships with partner companies for the company’s package insert program and on internal issues. The attitudes among some colleagues at Norm Thompson went from “What is all this crap in our packages?” to referring to them as “profit maximizers,” Davis said.

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