Advertising Effectiveness: Creating Great Free-Standing Inserts (FSIs)

Posted by Gary Getto on Aug 8, 2016 9:51:32 AM

Like all mediums, Free-Standing Inserts (FSIs) can be enormously effective for driving Purchase and other Calls-to-Action, but only when the creative is strong. Today we'll look at some of the best and worst of thousands of FSIs benchmarked by the largest syndicated research database of measured ads in the world.

A recent ABX Advisory post provided "Four Characteristics of Great Print Ads" that also apply to FSIs, such as having a clear benefit in the headline, conveying a singular message, using a primary illustration and providing obvious branding. But FSIs have other challenges, since often they have to balance their message against the need to show multiple products, text, and coupons.

As we've shared throughout this series on how to create effective advertising, the four KPIs that matter are Awareness (brand linkage), Message (clarity and understanding), Reputation (feeling better about the brand after viewing the ad than before) and Action (visiting the website, telling a friend, purchase, etc.). Out of thousands of FSI's measured by ABX in the last 12 months, the following stood out:

Far from just another cluttered ad, Walgreens shows a limited assortment of well-photographed, clear items in both English and Spanish, with clear pricing and calls to action (deals all week long). See Scorecard below for scores well above the ABX advertising effectiveness Index average of 100. Reputation alone is +150% above the norm.



  • Poor-Scoring FSI Overall - HEB

It is too easy to just put items and prices into a grid...but with so much product and clutter, readers didn't know where to start.  The branding was almost invisible (Awareness -66% against norm)...would you know which store to shop at for these items?  Message was unclear (-31%), Reputation was harmed (-81%), and Action was down (-46%). Yet this style of FSI is all too common!



  • Best Awareness Score - Kohl's

Looking at the individual KPIs, Kohl's took top place in Awareness with it's super-strong branding in this clean, clear, well-illustrated FSI.  While Action wasn't as strong as Kohl's may have hoped (+16%), the FSI impacted Reputation very positively (+43%).Kohls_scorecard.png


Lucious photography in a dominant image, coupons with clear photos and pricing, and reasonably good branding throughout drove the highest score for Understanding (which is part of the Message score below). High Reputation (+86%) and Action (+57%) scores predict strong sales from this effort.


Evaluators loved this ad, scoring Reputation as +97% over norm. Strong, clear photography, a singular coupon and healthy message (+38%) makes this a winning FSI.

  • Best Purchase (Action) Score - Subway

Last, but not least, is this Subway ad.  Good photography, branding and almost irrestible coupons carry the highest score of the FSI's evaluated with Purchase at +196% (not shown, but which is part of the Action score). 


For FSIs, it would seem less is more, high-quality photography is worth every penny, clarity of offer is critical, and strong branding is equally important.  Make sure your FSI doesn't get thrown away without a fair assessment!

Next up in this series on Advertising Effectiveness: What Makes Great Outdoor.

And, don't forget to sign up for your free copy of our eBook below!

Are you satisfied with your current creative effectiveness?  Is it resonating through Awareness and Message, and having an impact on Reputation and Action?  ABX provides the largest normative database in the industry across all media types. On average you can improve your creative effectiveness by almost 20%

Free eBook - "Four Key Performance Indicators to Decrease Advertising Investment Risk & Build ROI" 

Written by ABX President Gary Getto, this new eBook shares insights gained from the world’s largest database of benchmarked ads. You will learn the characteristics of powerful ads and how they can better drive results. 

Click for free eBook on advertising effectiveness

How the ABX Testing is Done

ABX provides ad effectiveness scores from human respondents against 14 variables and in all media types. ABX Index values are a comparison of the results of an ad versus the average of all ads in the ABX database (100,000+ ads). Click for more information about definitions and methodology.

Topics: Data-Driven Keys

Join the discussion on advertising effectiveness with insights from the world's largest normative database of measured ads:

  • Analysis of creative omnichannel 
  • What works or doesn't by industry 
  • Implications for marketing, creative and media planning
  • Consumer panel results, not just opinion
Subscribe to ABX Advisory Here