News America Makes Move to Branded Coupons

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Branding of packaged goods has been a staple in the ever competitive world of retail supermarkets, but now comes a branded coupon for consumers to get discounts.

Shelving its nameless freestanding insert and in-store coupon programs for the branded name of SmartSource, News America Marketing hopes to boost advertising and redemption rates by becoming a more familiar household name.

The coupon products already are familiar to more than 100 million Americans who receive the free-standing inserts in their newspapers and the 60 million consumers who use the company's in-store coupons. But the News Corp. division hopes to bank on an emotional tie to coupon-using consumers in order to drive redemption rates.

"It's a simple plan if you think about the amount of people we reach," said Dominick Porco, president of News America Marketing, New York. "Like the Good Housekeeping seal of approval, this will stand for what came out of the research -- that people felt smarter than their neighbors when using coupons.

"What I'm hopeful of is that eventually SmartSource will stand for smart values. In time, it will mean something to a consumer in order to ultimately benefit the advertiser," Porco said.

News America undertook extensive research in developing the product name. Porco said the company hired a brand agency to run focus groups and mall intercepts around 20 markets to "determine what was the emotional trigger or response when consumers used coupons." Repeatedly, the research found, consumers who used coupons said they felt smarter than nonusers.

Although the company will maintain the same tracking technologies and fulfillment programs, it has made some executive changes to mesh with the newly branded coupon portfolios that are distributed via newspapers and in-store through red blinking boxes.

News America Marketing, which is made up of three divisions -- FSI, In-Store and Merchandising -- consolidated finance, operations, marketing, human resources and international into individual units to serve the divisions. Heading finance is David DeVoe Jr., who recently was named to the newly created post of executive vice president and chief financial officer. Jennifer Jehn was named executive vice president of marketing, Eugene Klein was appointed executive vice president and chief operating officer and Joseph Traynor has been tapped as president of international.

"Suffice it to say, the industry is very healthy because it works," Porco said. "Advertising is very theoretical, but what we sell is very quantifiable."

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