Campaign Direct: Viewpoint - Discipline this messy marketing tool and it could easily clean up

As a consumer, how often have you picked up a magazine, found a handful of loose inserts inside and, mildly irritated, thrown them in the bin without a second thought?

As a consumer, how often have you picked up a magazine, found a

handful of loose inserts inside and, mildly irritated, thrown them in

the bin without a second thought?

Perhaps you’ve found a few under your feet in the street or on a

newsagent’s floor. If you’ve ever visited a newspaper or magazine

printer, or a wholesaler, you may have found the floor littered with

inserts. And what about an advertiser that supplies a publishing house

with 2.5 million inserts, only to discover that copy sales fell below

two million? The potential waste is alarming, both in print and media


As an advertising medium, inserts have grown phenomenally in volume in

the past few years, mainly because of an explosion in supply

opportunities. Most newspapers have invested in expensive machinery

which allows them to add sections and carry loose inserts. Distribution

methods now allow precise regional targeting if it is required.

It is a very lucrative business for publishers, especially where a

multitude of inserts are carried and advertisers are generally happy as

long as the medium delivers a cost-effective return.

But the effectiveness of inserts is only known privately - and

predominantly by direct response advertisers. As a vehicle for

non-direct response advertisers, the unwelcome prospect of vast

potential waste is a major turn-off.

Inserts are probably the least accountable medium in existence. The

value and accuracy of an insert certificate is questionable, given the

complexity of the process and the potential bias of those responsible

for producing it. The Direct Marketing Association Insert Council is

looking at the issue of best practice, with the possibility of the Audit

Bureau of Circulations providing a service. This is clearly a very

welcome development, but the ability to monitor accurately the value of

inserts placed in a title will, I suspect, remain a pipe dream.

Another disadvantage of inserts is the lack of quantitative and

qualitative research, which would be invaluable to speculative users of

the medium and advertisers wishing to understand how the medium

interacts and communicates with recipients.

TGI is a familiar planning tool to many clients, advertising agencies

and media specialists. It examines product use versus media consumption

habits. Traditional media can be analysed as broadly as ITV or as

narrowly as readers of Motorcycle News, but inserts do not feature. A

question or two about inserts in the survey could give a valuable


The credibility of inserts falls a long way behind that of other major

media. With greater and greater amounts of revenue being channelled into

the medium, it is time to recognise its growing significance by

insisting on less waste and more research. Response rates would

inevitably improve in the process.


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