U.S. Cavalry charges into bind-ins

Advertiser eagerness to place blow-in cards in U.S. Cavalry’s catalog nearly led to a fight between two brokers, according to Carmen Shelton, list/circulation manager for the outdoor sporting goods mailer. Unfortunately, the catalog’s page count, typically around 64 pages, prevents U.S. Cavalry from carrying more than two blow-ins from advertisers per issue.

The solution? The Radcliff, KY-based company is instituting a bind-in program, slated to begin in January, to complement its five-year-old blow-in program. The addition of a two-page bound insert doubles the amount of space available to advertisers, says the catalog’s chief financial officer, Jim Kimbro.

Of course, bind-ins are pricier than blow-ins. Unlike blow-ins, which can be produced in a universal size that will fit in any publication, bind-ins usually must be produced specifically for the catalog in which they run to meet size and paper requirements – thus increasing production costs.

But U.S. Cavalry’s advertisers are apparently willing to pay the extra expense. The company, whose sales are estimated at $40 million, charges $30/M for bind-ins (the same as for blow-ins) and mails an estimated 7.7 million catalogs each year. The cataloger’s list manager, Dave Guarnieri of New Rochelle, NY-based Estee List Services, says advertisers can select to bind their inserts into partial press runs, but that U.S. Cavalry isn’t capable of allowing advertisers to bind in to selected demographic segments.

Guarnieri is glad to have the additional space to sell. “I’ll put it this way: Six months ago, we were booked for the rest of this year and all of next year’s blow-ins. The demand exceeded what U.S. Cavalry could deliver.”

Bind-ins vs. blow-ins

Linda Callahan, senior vice president of alternative media specialist Leon Henry, sees relatively few catalogers offering bind-in programs, mostly because of the additional cost and effort required of the advertisers. But the popularity of blow-in programs among catalogers is growing, she claims. “Blow-ins generally cost half of what a package insert will cost to produce, and for advertisers, catalogs offer large circulations and arrive on a set date, so they’re selling readily,” she says. Catalogers offering blow-ins include audio equipment marketer Crutchfield and auto supplies mailer J.C. Whitney.

Perhaps surprisingly, concern about competition from advertisers seems minor. “We wouldn’t blow in or bind in any advertisement that is in direct competition with us,” U.S. Cavalry’s Kimbro says. “But we’ve accepted Franklin Mint offers such as collectible hunting knives.” U.S. Cavalry, which sells similar knives, hasn’t seen any ill effects from Franklin Mint’s blow-ins, he adds.

“In 10 years I can think of only one or two situations when catalogers felt after the fact that a blow-in had a negative effect on their mailings,” says Callahan. But that isn’t to say they aren’t wary about who participates in their programs. “There are catalogers who don’t like the concept. They’ve spent a lot to cultivate their names, and they won’t give them away. But when the advertisers aren’t other catalogs, the catalogers feel less threatened,” she says.

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