Newspapers join up for coupon war

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The Independent Online
THREE national newspaper groups have joined forces to publish a 9.5 million circulation advertising supplement intended to pre-empt a rival project of Rupert Murdoch's News International.

Mirror Group Newspapers, The Telegraph and Express Newspapers have set up a joint venture, Brand Movers, to create an advertisements-only magazine for insertion in their weekend editions.

The colour magazine, called Moneysavers, will contain money- off coupons, for redemption in supermarkets, to promote grocery brands. The aim is to boost the newspapers' advertising revenues.

In June News International announced plans for a similar magazine, Shoppers' Friend. The first issue will be in November, inserted in the Sunday Times, the News of the World and in some non-NI publications.

Both projects are a response to the success of coupon magazines in the US, 'where every man, woman and child now receives 1,200 coupons a year', according to Brand Movers' sales director, Alan Kirkland.

Mr Kirkland was recruited from Reed International, which has been experimenting for two years with The Coupon Book, a similar publication inserted in Reed's free newspapers.

In the US, 292 billion coupons were distributed last year, compared with 8 billion in the UK. Many were in magazine format - known as a free-standing insert.

Americans are much keener on coupons, even forming clubs to swap them. Mr Kirkland said he wanted to create more of a 'coupon culture' in Britain.

Roger Eastoe, deputy managing director of MGN and chairman of Brand Movers, said the joint venture would be registered with the Office of Fair Trading.

He said he expected the venture to take advertising revenue from television companies, although he conceded some traditional newspaper display advertising revenue might be lost to the new format.

Food manufacturers and retailers reacted coolly to the new venture. A spokesman for J Sainsbury said: 'We are concerned that so many more coupons are being printed, especially as redemption rates are going down.'

Nick Wilkinson, media manager for Birds Eye Walls, said the magazine would not be of great interest. It was 'a bit of a blunt instrument' in terms of targeting particular customers.

Printers are pitching to produce the magazine, whose frequency will depend on advertisers' demand. The date of the first issue will be announced soon.

It will be inserted in the Saturday editions of the Daily Mirror and the Telegraph Magazine and in the Sunday Express Magazine, the People and the Sunday Mail Magazine in Scotland.

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