Pendulum is swinging back to print

Sarah Cosgrove
Monday, April 18, 2016

A sell-out group of print buyers was given an expert run-through of the benefits of inserts, and how to get the best out of them at a recent DMA event.

Inserts: the nuts and bolts was held on 22 March at the DMA headquarters in the heart of London’s adland and was chaired by group head of Trinity Mirror Solutions John Stevens, who said his company saw 4.9 billion items go out a year.  

The Specialist Works managing director print media, Parry Jones, director at All Response Media Aldona Cornish and Nick Barbeary, client experience director at DST Output UK explained that far from being the forgotten, unsexy, unsuccessful channel, inserts were popular, relevant and most of all, effective.

OgilvyOne executive creative director Emma de la Fosse also shared the story behind the campaign which won the agency’s gold 2015 DMA Award for the best use of press and inserts.

Jones started off by exploring the chasm between perception and reality. 

“There’s a very common misconception that people just throw inserts into the bin. Everyone talks about digital but we’re expanding largely on the back of inserts,” he said.

“People in general don’t like advertising but you’ve got to separate what people say and what they do, 90% of them are making decisions subconsciously.” 

He said scientific research on touch had proved the effectiveness of physical over digital media. 

Royal Mail’s 18-month the Private Life of Mail study found people value something they can see and touch 28% higher than something they can only touch, while UCL research with the Metro newspaper found that those who accessed the digital version of the newspaper via a tablet had a 28% higher spontaneous recall than those who had clicked through it on screen via a mouse. 

A separate study by UCL found that Parisian waiters who had shook hands or otherwise touched patrons got 128% higher tips than those they had not.

“That shows the power of print. You can’t just judge it on how many people you reach, every time you reach them it’s more effective.”

Jones said that even some of the world’s biggest tech companies respected the value of print. When Microsoft, for example, wants its employees’ to really remember something, it prints out information and puts it on their desks. Google also uses inserts, he said. 

“If you’re trying to get true brand engagement, if you’ve got a product to launch, if you’re after something that’s measurable, it’s proven that inserts work.” 

Cornish agreed that inserts suffered from a lack of glamour or excitement but said “they are a highly responsive, accountable and effective route to market”.

She shared some practical tips to ensure print buyers knew how best to approach inserts. A typical brief would include: Target market, budget, KPIs, campaign timings, the offer – such as 15% off – the format and regions targeted.

While getting a campaign together can be as quick as two to three weeks, generally speaking it’s a longer burn. Lead times are as little as seven to 10 days prior to insertion for newspapers or supplements, to four weeks for third party (eg etailers).

Print buyers needed to consider the values of each channel, she said. The national press has high frequency and high volume, large coverage, national reach and are established brands. Inserts can also be targeted to specific regions. Magazines are great because they are highly targeted and genre specific and third party retailers, such as Amazon, had the added impact of home delivery, a receptive audience and personalisation.

The regional press should not be ignored, Cornish advised, with a readership that “tends to be more affluent than you tend to think, and older.” She advises to look at the cost of the title and consider reach versus niche value. “It’s up to you to do the maths”.

She also covered format choice and testing – she advises starting in core areas and then testing others as well as two-stage approaches, which get on average a 50% better response than one stage.

Barbeary was keen to tell delegates how print had “changed beyond all recognition” over the past “torrid 10 years” describing those who had survived as “fit” communication companies who “get it”.

He outlined how to get the best out of printers, including the stages of a typical campaign, suggesting that ensuring the brief is clear, the media schedule and deliveries are worked out and agreed and invoicing and credit checks are correct and done early is ideal. 

He said 50-60-% of a typical print job cost is paper, a high price to pay if something goes wrong.

“It’s really good to ensure the brief is clear and that we have a chat about it. We agree a production schedule and manage timings together,” he said, adding that nothing beats a good business relationship.

“One of these days you’ve got to lean on someone to get a job out of the door. You’ve got to arrange that you’ve got a mobile phone number, that you can call out of hours.”

Barbeary also showed how printers can help, beyond production, from delivering innovation to combining deliveries to save clients’ costs.

“If you get it right, we can do any job for you and we can make you look good,” he said. “The pendulum is swinging back to print. We’re finding more and more people are coming back to us and we’re welcoming them back with open arms.” 

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