How do you feel about flyers?

How am I going to answer that? I work in advertising.

Deidre Plotnick,

VP, creative director

Echo Advertising + Marketing, Toronto

How do you feel about flyers?

How am I going to answer that? I work in advertising – I can’t say that they’re a waste of paper. Actually, I look forward to them in the Saturday paper, believe it or not. I get about a dozen a week, they mainly come in the Toronto Star, and carriers come by and shove them in the door handle.

Which flyers do you read?

The flyers I like are for Pier 1 Imports – they have gorgeous photography in them – and I kind of like Home Depot, because I’m into home renovation mode right now. I also go through the Office Depot flyers, because I’m always looking for gadgets and stuff. And my husband goes through all the supermarket flyers – I couldn’t be bothered with those myself.

I’m not really into looking for specials, just the aesthetics. I look to see if they could be doing a better job. For instance, I think that Shoppers Drug Mart flyers could look better, and I think that Radio Shack could do a better job too – their flyers don’t have much personality.

I think the biggest and most missed opportunity in flyers lies in businesses not carrying their brand image through to this medium. Just because you’re pushing price and product doesn’t mean you have to revert to a shlock approach. Pier 1 does a great job of reinforcing their brand image in their flyer. Shoppers and Radio Shack both seem to have forgotten about what they stand for.

What makes you read the flyers you read?

I just like seeing what new products are out there. I like the detail, the fact that they’re in colour. I think that with a flyer you’re encouraged to sit down and actually read it, as opposed to an ad that you just glance at really quickly. Some are just like a little magazine.

Larry Gordon,

partner and co-creative director

Fat Free Communications, Toronto

How do you feel about flyers?

Generally I hate them. About 97% of them are crap, from the point of view of having a good idea, or good design or something that involves me. I work in the business, so I’m always on the lookout for great design, good ideas, that kind of thing. I’ve got my eye out for it, but rarely do I ever see it.

We do flyers here ourselves, so I do think that they can be done well. It’s important that they have an engaging idea, just like any advertising. Flyers are no different. And the really cool thing about flyers is that you often have four to eight pages to develop that idea, whereas in other advertising, you only have one.

I’ve had clients in the past where 70% to 80% of their marketing budget is going towards flyers, especially in the retail sector. That’s where they’re spending their money. So I don’t know why you wouldn’t really care about the 80% that you spend on flyers, and then spend all your time worrying about creative for the 20% you spend on other advertising.

Which flyers do a better job, or are they all awful?

Some of them are better than others. I like the ones that grab me, that speak to me, that have a clean idea – all the same stuff I look for in other advertising.

Ikea has done some pretty nice stuff in the past, but not much else stands out in my mind. The ones that arrive in your paper all kind of get stuffed in together, so if you really want to look for it, you’ve gotta look for it, as opposed to just opening the page, and there it is.

I find that the higher end guys generally do a better job. Because they’re selling more of a product, rather than specials. But that’s not to say that Zellers couldn’t do it just as well.

Ann Stewart,

VP, media communications*

The BrainStorm Group, Toronto

How do you feel about flyers?

I get sooo many – it’s like my house has this big sign that says ‘send flyer here.’ When you get so many, I think you question how many are getting through. Still, as a consumer, I think there really is a need for them. Because I decide where I’m going to shop based on flyers.

I think that they inform us, and I think people look forward to them, even though they have to clean them up and put them out with the garbage every week. There are a lot of closet readers, because flyers don’t have a high perception. They are mostly for on-sale items, discounted products, and that’s what they’re known for.

Which flyers do you look at?

The ones that are really attractive, for instance, I always look at the LCBO inserts. I love them: they’re clean, artistically done and designed nicely.

I also look at the ones that interest me and my family. My husband looks at the Canadian Tire flyers, my son takes the Toys ‘R’ Us. And while I might not always follow through – as far as buying what’s on special in the grocery store flyers – I definitely look through them. I look through all of them.

Is there room for more upscale FSIs?

Yeah, I think so. I think it’s a viable medium. But you have to be very careful about how you control them, how you distribute them. That’s very important because they are so costly.

Who sends out the worst flyers?

The fitness club flyers tend to be overpowering. They give you so much information that you just tend to go ‘whoooa!’ It’s like, ‘what are you trying to tell me?’ It’s when the message is clear, concise and appealing that you tend to break through.

* Ann Stewart’s last day as VP, media communications at The BrainStorm Group was Aug. 16. On Sept. 9 she begins a new job as managing partner at OMD Canada, overseeing BBDO.