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Marketers hungry for low-cost promotion tools are driving a resurgence in themed free standing inserts.

Developed around one theme or seasonal event, the FSIs link diverse marketers with events that boost short-term sales and offer opportunities to promote entire product lines and families of products.

"It's not taking over the FSI world, but there's sturdy growth in themed FSIs that provide a good strategic fit for the event and the brand involved," said Lynn Liddle, VP-corporate communications at Livonia, Mich.-based Valassis Inserts.

Valassis, along with New York-based FSI publisher News America, will spearhead several programs using a theme next year, including some backed by general advertising.

Co-Options, a recently formed Stamford, Conn., co-op marketing agency, is also hopping on the bandwagon with its first-ever themed FSI, on the switch to daylight savings time.

Co-Options' effort will bring together diverse marketers of convenience and microwaveable products in a sweepstakes promotion carrying the theme "It's about time!" That FSI, due Oct. 29, 1995, is the first of several planned by Co-Options. One of the others will unite classic package-goods brands with classic TV shows and licensed properties and characters.

"Creativity is the key to developing the new breed of themed FSIs because marketers want these FSI events to tie in directly with their brand objectives," said Brian Sockin, Co-Options president.

Valassis' largest themed FSI ever, centered on Ronald McDonald Children's Charities, will drop in 55 million Sunday newspapers in September 1995. It also will be backed by in-store support for participating brands in McDonald's Corp. outlets during a two-week period in September.

Radio spots from McDonald's co-op marketing groups will also promote the effort in certain markets.

A separate Valassis multibrand FSI tied to the 1995 "Soap Opera Digest Awards" will drop Jan. 29, one week before the awards show is broadcast on NBC. In a cross-promotion of the 2-hour TV event, NBC will promote the FSI for two weeks before the event. A sweepstakes to win a walk-on role to one of NBC's soap operas also is included.

The McDonald's and Soap Opera Digest FSIs are being coordinated by Marketing Events, Chicago, with the cooperation of Valassis.

Although Sullivan Marketing, New York, folded early this year after two years of attempting to specialize in themed FSIs, several smaller marketing agencies are making a go of the emerging market now.

New York-based News America is stepping up its seasonal FSI events, and Themed Co-Op Promotions, San Francisco, is tapping into the burgeoning field with event-themed FSIs planned for 1995.

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