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'Journal News' egg-cites patrons.

Nothing's finer than a promo in the diner

Place mat lays it on the table: Easy-to-digest marketing

It's a classic example of food for thought.

Marie Smyth had just joined Gannett Co. Inc.'s Journal News in New York's well-to-do Westchester and Rockland counties, when her boss gave her something to chew on: Grabbing a bigger piece of the pie in an intensely competitive market.

"He wanted us to come up with a very grassroots promotion," recalls Smyth, who joined The Journal News with a consumer-package-goods background (Mott's apple sauce and, before that, Kraft). Her boss, Vice President of Market Development John Green, made it clear that the new campaign had to go beyond the standard advertising fare on TV, radio, and billboards.

Smyth and her group's inspiration started brewing with the question, "Where does it make best sense for a newspaper promotion to be noticed?"

"The first thing that came to everybody's mind," said Smyth, director of consumer marketing, "was a cup of coffee." Then she egged them on, and they really started to cook: diners! There are dozens of diners dotting her on-the-run commuter territory.

Coffee, bagel, newspaper.

It was right there, with those Art Deco and 1950s-kitsch eateries on the radar screen, that somebody came up with the perfect recipe: The way to really get in the face of patrons at these diners was through the humble place mat -- lively, four-color place mats promoting everything at The Journal News from spring gardening tips to a fall color guide, and from the newspaper's Web site to its wide variety of community events.

That was last autumn. Today the press run for the place mats is 500,000 or so a month, the number of participating diners tops 20 and is rising rapidly, and the paper is partnering with local radio station WHUD on a contest to win a trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

"It's been a good program for us," said Pete Tsagarakis, owner of the Croton Colonial Diner. "It's an accommodation for people who come into the diner -- the place mats provide them with interesting information they can use." The eateries get copies of The Journal News (188,867 daily circulation, 230,575 Sunday) at a bulk rate.

Beyond that, "we have a menu of incentives, depending on the individual situation," Smyth said, "from breakfast-special programs to cause- related programs."

In return, the newspaper receives preferred positioning in an intensely com- petitive newspaper marketplace. Smyth said "90% of the diners now have our paper at the cash register." This has led, she said, to a doubling of single-copy sales at these eateries. Talk about over easy.

Meanwhile, the innovation dessert cart rolls on, with such new features as a children's menu place mat. "You have to constantly be thinking of what's compelling for the client," Smyth said. "Selling this program to diner owners is no different from selling Maxwell House coffee to an A&P store."

And that's no java jive.

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Article Details
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Author:Holland, Drew; Yahn, Steve
Publication:Editor & Publisher
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 30, 2000
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