Coupon-Clipping Takes to The Web

With readers increasingly consuming their media over the Internet, is it
any wonder that advertisers are scrambling to capture their attention
online? Valassis today became the latest to do so, as the offline coupon
giant looks to woo Web-savvy consumers using a new coupon and content site.

The company plans to launch RedPlum.com next month, which will house
coupons from a variety of its advertising partners, such as companies in
grocery, beauty, travel, electronics, home and entertainment.

The move represents a major undertaking for Valassis — best known for
its newspaper inserts and direct-mail coupon packs — and a significant
validation for online advertising.

“The RedPlum portal will aggregate the existing content and values
contained within our portfolio, while extending its reach exponentially and
empowering advertisers with the ability to continually engage consumers how,
when, and where they want,” said Valassis Chief Marketing Officer Suzie
Brown in a statement.

Yet the effort also means the company will compete with a slew of online
coupon-offering ventures, most of which are maintained by far smaller companies,
the most prominent of which include CoolSavings.com and Valpak. A third
company, Coupons Inc., operates the rival Coupons.com site, but Valassis has
long held a stake in the firm and has a deal to use its online coupon
printing technology.

Established titans in the online search and media world are also playing
in the Internet coupon field. Google, for instance, has made inroads into linking coupons with Google Maps. It’s also made tentative moves into mobile
coupon offers
, as Microsoft has
done
as well.

For Valassis, the launch also comes as a component of a larger effort to
reposition its coupons to better appeal to consumers. The site’s debut will
accompany the inauguration of a broader RedPlum brand, which will roll up
the company’s current direct mail and newspaper insert advertising products.

If all goes according to plan, the push will make its Web site the go-to
destination for coupons, while upping the perceived value of its mailings
and inserts. At the same time, Valassis’ advertising clients will benefit
from greater reach and better access to online consumers.

“Our clients will be able to capitalize on the unprecedented and diverse
power of the RedPlum portfolio which will reach 90 percent of all U.S.
households, over 100 million consumers per week, ultimately making RedPlum
ubiquitous among consumers as their ultimate source for value,” Brown said.

According to the company, RedPlum.com will offer “extensive” coupons for
products and services from advertisers that range from local shops to
national brands. Coupons will be targeted to consumers based on their ZIP
code, but the site won’t require users to register.

RedPlum.com also will include “relevant information about products and
services that will give consumers a reason to return to the site again and
again,” said Brian Costello, general manager of Valassis’ interactive unit,
in a statement.

For years, online coupons have represented a steadfast, if not
necessarily high-demand, segment of the online marketing space. But the
area may be poised for increased activity: Last year, researcher Harris
Interactive found that Web users searching for special offers and coupons
play a significant role in driving offline sales.

Not surprisingly, initial reaction by advertisers to Valassis’s move
seems positive.

“The introduction of the RedPlum portal will enable us to seamlessly
expand the reach of our campaigns beyond traditional avenues, maximizing the
effectiveness of our overall ad spend,” said Rob Weisberg, vice president of
precision print marketing at Domino’s Pizza, in a statement.

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