Evaluating Coupon Efforts


A large national retail chain with several brands was concerned about the execution of their coupon advertising activity, specifically with their free-standing inserts (FSIs). They had experienced a few problems with one of the national newspaper insert companies and contacted us to conduct an audit.


Our Approach:

Our philosophy is that all media activity should be audited periodically to insure that the media companies are in compliance with acceptable business practices.  In broadcast media, most advertising agencies will check invoices to verify that schedules have run. Some agencies do this better than others. But in print advertising, especially with newspapers, schedules are rarely checked thoroughly.

We conducted a comprehensive multi-year review of each of the brands’ FSl activity. We reviewed billing procedures, the accuracy of newspaper circulations, a production quality check of the printed coupons, and a competitive separation check.


Our Findings:

The production quality was generally acceptable except in a few isolated instances where the color reproduction was not ideal. More importantly, we found several billing errors, as well as some significant discrepancies in newspaper circulation counts. We also identified several concerns regarding actual coupon placements and competitive separations.



The existing contract between the client and the newspaper insert company was revised to incorporate new and/or improved parameters regarding billing procedures, coupon placement guidelines, and competitive separation guidelines. More importantly, newspaper lists and circulations were corrected. These corrections saved the client a significant amount of money and the results of the audit also allowed the client to negotiate a lower cost per thousand (CPM) for future FSIs.