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An adman offers some 'cutting' words.

You can't argue with the immediacy of newspapers. Their headlines shout of incidents that happened only a few hours ago. Their box-scores tell of games that ended at 11 last night and their ads speak of sales that begin at 8 this morning.

As for those ads, properly crafted, they can compel consumers to take action almost at once. that's especially true when it comes to coupon ads. Their inent to coupon ads. Their intent is to have consumers make a beeline for the scissors.

The competition, however, for "share of scissors" is getting to be a tougher and tougher battle. More than 143 billion coupons inundated America last year--and that was an increase over the 120 billion in 1982. Unfortunately, quite a few billion of those coupons were blash pieces of communication.

Some of the reasons for blahness are that: a) many companies adhere slavishly and myopically to a certain coupon ad formula; b) many companies don't perceive coupon ads to be, in reality, brand advertising; and c) many advertising agencies don't see coupon ads as creative opportunities.

Is there such a thing as coupon creativity? Of course there is. Has it ever been categorized? I don't know, but let's try to do just that. Maybe we'll be able to see where we can improve clipping communication.

First, we have what I call the Buckeye Bargain category. The principle of this genre is "reveal the deal as boldy as possible." With that philosophy, consumers are told, "Save 25 cents!" "Free Offer," "Three for the Price of Two."

The headlines are horsy. Note that they don't mention the product name. The creators of these ads believe that consumers, bitten by the bargain bug, will rush off to buy anything, whether or not they need the plant food or cream cheese being offered.

Buckeye Bargains may move some merchandise, but the category does nothing for the image of the brand that's being "buckeyed." Buckeye Bargains appear all too frequently on co-op couponing newspaper pages which are nothing more than drab directories of cents-off offers. Yes, they are clear and concise--but they are not doing the complete job a couponing ad--and every ad--should do.

Another couponing category we have been able to discern is the Try to Tie-In category. The intent of this category is exemplary and, when it works, it works wonders. The idea is to take the brand's major advertising campaign (be it national or regional or local) and refer to that campaign in the coupon ad. It's not that easy. Sometimes the ties are tenuous. Right now, I am looking at a dog food coupon ad whose headline is 22 words long because the creators wanted to tie in to the basic brand campaign. A 22 word headline is not something a rader wants to wade through on Best Food Day--or any day.

The best tie-in ads are for those products that have a strong slogan in their basic advertising campaign. Words that are quotable on television are promotable in couponing print. It may sound semantically simple, but it's oh so true. If there's punchy verb in that slogan, that verb can be twisted, played with, and used provocatively in the coupon ad.

Within the Try To Tie-In segment there is a sub-segment that I find most appealing and effective--localization. It may be a little more expensive--and sometimes risky--to slug in a local headline to your ad, but it can be very arresting. I recall being stopped in my tracks by a coupon ad for kitty litter that appeared in a Westchester County-N.Y. newspaper. The headline of that ad was addressed to "Ossining Cats."

The third category--and I must confress, my favorite--is the CouPUN category. Yes, CouPUN. All too often we forget that the same consumers who like to be entertained by humorous radio commercials, and who smile at funny TV spots, might also like to be charmed by a coupon ad. So, play with words in your coupon ads. Wordplay works. Words, after all, are the most persuasive tools we have in advertising--much more persuasive than pictures, no matter how mouth-watering that piece of chocolate cake might be. So let's use words to ingratiate ourselves with the consumer.

Oh yes, we can overdo it sometimes. How many "Liquid Asset" ads have you seen in the drink category? Or "Cold Cash" for a frozen food coupon? Or, the oft-seen coupon headline, "The kindest cut of all?" Once upon a time, every one of those lines was fresh and fun and cute. But overuse has made the expressions mundane--and that's the toughest thing about using puns. Puns wear out fast. They must be distinctive and impelling and, of course, relevant. But they are wonderful devices to get your coupons clipped. They are wonderful devices because they are incisive, effective word tools.

John Maynard Keynes once said, "Words ought to be somewhat wild, or they are, after all, assaults of thoughts on the unthinking." Odds are that when a newspaper reader opens up her daily journal she is not thinking about a nasal decongestant, frozen broccoli, or a new cereal. It is our job to assault her, warmly and wittily, with words. I urge everyone, those on my side of the checkout counter and those on yours, to care about those words more, and to spend more of your ad agency's time and talent to create more effective coupon ads.
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Title Annotation:coupon ads
Author:Chervokas, John
Publication:Progressive Grocer
Date:Aug 1, 1984
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