Letters, Nov. 17, 2008

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Valassis isn't entire coupon biz

RE: "Valassis Battered by Weak September Sales" (AdAge.com, Nov. 6). As the publisher and distributor of SmartSource Magazine (North America's leading FSI, or free-standing insert), SmartSource Coupon Machine (the automated coupon dispenser available in more than 40,000 food, drug, mass, dollar and office-supply stores) and SmartSource.com (one of the nation's largest online distributors of coupons), News America Marketing is a significant participant in the cents-off-coupon-distribution business. So, we were surprised by your recent article, based on information gleaned from Valassis' investor report, that suggested coupon distribution is down. Simply put, Valassis' business fortune should not be viewed as the bellwether for the promotion and coupon-distribution industry at large.

When we look at our own year-to-date performance, the number of pages we printed in the FSI this year is actually up 3% vs. the same period a year ago. Feedback from our customers suggests that coupon redemption is also tracking up vs. the prior year, as would be expected in a challenging economy. Now we are seeing consumers increasingly turn to coupons to help their families' budgets.

ComScore just released a new study showing that 62% of American consumers are using coupons to cut back on their shopping expenses. The skyrocketing increase in the number of prints of our online coupons (up more than 300% vs. last year) supports that data.

New methods of coupon distribution such as "direct to card," which enables consumers to download offers from the internet to their retail frequent-shopper cards (e.g. Giant Eagle) and the soon-to-be-launched SmartSource Xpress program, which will provide a clip-less coupon solution for the FSI, are two examples of cents-off-coupon formats that will cater to the modern shopper looking for even more convenient ways to shop for brand names in a smart way.

The fact that Valassis' business is especially troubled at a time when we're finding success may have more to do with their approach to coupon distribution then it does with the popularity of couponing.

We are confident that our robust performance will continue and would be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Christopher Mixson
News America Marketing
New York

iPhone pretenders are not contenders

Re: "Tale of the Tape: iPhone vs. G1" (AA, Oct. 27). I was disappointed to find what I consider editorial fluff. The comparison of anything vs. the iPhone at this point seems to me to be either a sign of ignorance on the part of the writer or the belief that there are those uneducated who believe that the iPhone can have competition.

Since the iPhone was launched almost a year and a half ago, there have been a parade of supposed "iPhone killers" (not including the knockoffs such as the Chinese Meizu M8). If they have been managed (from a marketing standpoint) as they should be, they are vying for second place, not first. IPhone occupies a market all its own, and it is brandcentric in the same way that Apple's iPod is among MP3 players. Each of Apple's subbrands own their markets and displace competitors as generic equivalents.

I would have so much more enjoyed a comparison of products from Sony-Ericsson, Samsung, Motorola, LG, etc. ,that are vying for the spot that every market-leading product leaves in its wake: the second choice.
Randy Anderson
Side By Side Design
Boise, Idaho

McCain could have swayed blacks

RE: Al Ries' "What Marketers Can Learn from Obama's Campaign" (AdAge.com, Nov. 7). What many in the "mainstream" ad/marketing community fail to observe is that the Obama brand had "loyalty" in the African-American community that was not challenged by his competitor at all. Obama built on that brand loyalty by spending more than $4 million with our African-American-owned newspaper network nationwide, which his competitor did not do. In today's marketplace, you can't just let 90% of African-American consumers sit there and patronize your competition. With the right media choices, black consumers/voters can be swayed. For instance, a full-page ad in our newspaper network of 121 black newspapers highlighting Martin Luther King Jr., who was a Republican, could have at least been done by McCain.
Mark Kimber
Kimber Kimber & Associates
Black Newspaper Network
Fresno, Calif.


RE: "What Next for Database of 3M Barack Fans?" (AA, Nov. 10). Paul Price is global president of Rapp, not the CEO.
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