Newspaper Sampling, Promotion Packs Front-Page Punch

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Though pricier than typical package insert programs, ride-alongs or freestanding inserts, newspaper bag sampling and promotional programs also yield more targeted and visible direct marketing opportunities for advertisers, according to a firm specializing in this type of marketing.

"A newspaper freestanding insert at $7/M versus a newspaper promotional polybag at $120/M or a sample pouch at $160-$170/M makes it a challenge to get people to consider it, but 90 percent of people who get the bag remember the advertiser on it," said Eric Douglas, vice president of marketing and creative services for The Sunflower Group, Overland Park, KS. "I'd be surprised if something that's literally hidden inside the paper can have that kind of impact."

The Sunflower Group started in 1978 mainly doing run-of-press newspaper ads for marketers looking to deliver coupons to C and D counties. The firm focuses today on newspaper sampling and advertising as well as in-store and in-the-field sampling.

"Whether it's at home, in-store or on the way to work, we aim to deliver promotions in the most appropriate way, and we realized long ago that building the coverage for our clients, which tend to be consumer packaged goods companies, should also include delivering samples," Douglas said.

The Sunflower Group has relationships with 500 daily newspapers nationwide and built a proprietary 50 million-household database not just of total circulation, but circulation by ZIP code. Sources used to enhance the database include MicroVision by Claritas for consumer spending data at the ZIP+4 level, Mediamark Research Inc. for consumer research data and TDLinx for retailer data on 30,000 supermarkets, mass merchandisers, chain drugstores and club stores.

The database lets The Sunflower Group give clients the best target audience for their product samples, Douglas said. Its NewsRoute delivery system offers the narrowest delivery definition by the individual newspaper carrier. Generally, a carrier delivers 300 to 500 papers each morning, he added.

The database also is used for in-store and in-the-field sampling.

"The segmentation system is especially beneficial for marketers that use samples because samples tend to be fairly expensive on top of the cost of the program," Douglas said. "They might spend a quarter or more on each sample."

While consumer packaged goods marketers often include no direct response mechanism in their newspaper sampling programs beyond a coupon, other types of marketers have executed trackable campaigns, he said.

Though he would not reveal the company, Douglas cited a national retailer that used a newspaper bag program to promote a sweepstakes it sponsored. Nearly 500,000 entry forms were distributed via three channels: 80,000 via the newspaper bag, 180,000 through the retailer's weekly in-store ad and 235,000 in an on-page newspaper ad. Of the 10,000 entries received, 70 percent came through the newspaper bag promotion, he said.

Other measurable campaigns have been done by credit card companies that included applications with the ad, as well as Internet service providers that included discs with unique identifiers.

Some samplers also conduct post-program telephone surveys, Douglas said, though he noted that this is tougher to do since the no-call list took effect.

Scanner data from grocers and retailers also are analyzed to show post-program sales for consumer packaged goods marketers.

"You have to deliver quite a few samples to move the needle across the market, but we've seen some very impressive sales," he said.

Douglas said these programs make sense for products consumed at home such as cereal and toothpaste but that other objectives can be met as well.

"I would love to just be considered by more direct marketers," he said.

Kristen Bremner covers list news, insert media, privacy and fundraising for DM News and To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting

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