RetailMeNot Readies Traditional Ad Blitz

Online-Coupon Site Hires GSD&M, Allison & Partners to Handle TV, Media-Buying, PR

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If you haven't heard of online-couponing giant RetailMeNot, you will soon -- if all goes according to the company's plan.

After completing a series of swift agency reviews -- they were conducted in less than six weeks -- the company has hired Omnicom Group's GSD&M in Austin, Texas, as its lead creative and media shop, and MDC Partners' Allison & Partners in San Francisco to handle public relations.

Jill Balis
Jill Balis

Together, the agencies will be responsible for launching the first brand campaign for RetailMeNot. The effort aims to drive more consumers to the money-saving site, with special attention around Black Friday and the holiday season.

The moves come under Jill Balis, who in August joined RetailMeNot's parent company, WhaleShark Media, as senior VP-marketing. Ms. Balis had been managing director of SMG Search, an arm of Publicis Groupe 's Starcom MediaVest Group, where she worked on clients such as General Motors and Hyatt. Earlier in her career she led the e-marketing group at Orbitz.

WhaleShark Media is essentially a rollup of coupon and deal websites, including RetailMeNot, which it acquired in late 2010; the U.K.'s VoucherCodes; Deals.com; CouponShare.com and others. It has secured funding from a host of venture-captial firms such as Austin Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners, Adams Street Partners, Google Ventures, J.P. Morgan Asset Management and Institutional Venture Partners.

Until now, RetailMeNot didn't have any dedicated agency partners, and much of its digital advertising, PR and other work was handled in-house. But as it has grown considerably via search-engine marketing and social media. The site claims that it works with 100,000 merchants and has 400 million visits to its sites (not uniques -- RetailMeNot did not provide a figure for those). Ms. Balis told Ad Age it was time to turn to offline channels to promote the site.

"We really want to expand and get people to come directly to our site," Ms. Balis said. "It's the right time to go bigger and communicate our value proposition to a bigger audience."

According to Ms. Balis, GSD&M was chosen as a partner because of its work on clients such as Southwest and LL Bean, its proximity to WhaleShark's Austin headquarters, and the fact that it houses both creative and media capabilities. Meanwhile, Allison & Partners was selected for its experience with e-commerce firms and ability to work with creative shops. It may also help that Ms. Balis would be familiar with Allison & Partners' projects with Orbitz.

Instead of focusing solely on the brand, RetailMeNot said it saw a need to market the category. The forthcoming communications from GSD&M and Allison will try to help consumers understand the online-couponing space and convince them that to save, it's easier to click on coupons than to cut them.

"A lot of people aren't familiar with the space" so don't know "that they can save an average of $20 every time they shop," said Ms. Balis.

It's also interesting that the company isn't married to a single media plan and will let what resonates in the market shape its overall marketing.

"We're looking to test offline media later this year, including TV and other channels. ... We'll test various channels to see what's most effective for our business, and do a lot of testing into the holidays," Ms. Balis said.

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