The future of coupons: Valassis Yanks Red Plum Inserts in Several Large Markets

Is the future of coupon inserts in jeopardy?

Is the jig up? There are reports that Valassis Corporation who produces the Red Plum Coupon inserts has pulled the inserts from several markets in Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Utah, Virginia, Washington D.C., North Carolina, Maryland, and Texas. At first I didn’t think  I was affected but I do realize now that the week I was missing an insert was a Red Plum from the Kokomo Tribune. The Red Plum is still available from the Indy Star as far as I know.

Apparently Valassis thinks having internet printables (some stores are inconsistent with their treatment of Internet Printables, many internet printables do not double, some consumers have no access to internet or a printer,and others just can’t get them to print on their computer or limited because they use public access terminals) and mailing out Red Plum insert to customers is now enough. I would think with the rise of postage costs, this would be more costly for Valassis. They have not taken into account that many people buy extra newspaper inserts to maximize their savings or buy extra items for charity. In addition, couponers are probably keeping some newspapers afloat by couponers buying extra papers each week just for the extra inserts!

This brings me to the question, is this the beginning of the end of coupons as we know it? I hope not because good old fashioned Sunday Coupon Inserts are what I mainly use to save! In fact, most manufacturer’s view coupons as a form of advertisement. You can’t get that same advertisement in a printable internet coupon or a “e coupon”. Only consumers who sign up for the Red Plum inserts in these areas will receive them INSTEAD of the thousands of people who buy the Sunday paper and flip through the ads/inserts. I’m not a marketing expert but does this make sense to you? Did the manufacturer’s who purchase ad space from Valassis approve of this?

Here’s a news story on the subject: Valassis Angers Blogger Moms by Yanking Red Plum Inserts from newspapers. On a side note, I’m disturbed by this branding of mom bloggers as “angry”. Using the term angry makes us all sound like some type of mad mob, which I guess we really could become if they take away our coupons….So Valassis, do you really want to ANGER your target demographic?

Find out what you can to do at Bring Back the Coupons.

Other Posts You Might Enjoy:

Bacon Cheeseburger Sliders

Bacon Cheeseburger Sliders

This is a easy weeknight recipe for your entire family to enjoy especially if you find a good deal on Pillsbury Grands! Biscuits.  This is inexpensive and an easy recipe that is sure to please your family with its cheesy, […]


Green Chilies Chicken Enchiladas

This Green Chili Chicken Enchiladas recipe was a hit! Served with cilantro lime rice for a easy dinner. You can make your own enchilada sauce or use canned for convenience. I was able to make this recipe after getting off […]


  1. 31

    GoodRiddance says

    Red Plum can’t go out of business soon enough for me, I find them to be the scum of the Earth. Do any of you think about the environmental impact of their mailers? Not to mention the inconvenience of trying to make sure legitimate mail isn’t caught between the pages of one of their mangled mailings which has been crammed in your mailbox. For anyone thinking of advertising with these jokers, it is the kiss of death for you with many thoughtful consumers. Why would we do business with a company who spams our mailbox with this junk, and harms the environment in the process. For all of you salivating for your next load of coupons, you are a bunch of suckers. Do a little research on consumer profiling, dynamic pricing aka targeted pricing, targeted marketing, and data mining. You only think you are saving money. Want to save money? Stop obsessing over what ever it is that Valassis aka Red Plum wants you to buy this week, and get a real job or a better/second job instead. You are NOT helping your family with your pathological fascination with coupons, and your addiction to having Valassis tell you what you should buy each week. Dumb, dumb, dumb. What a pathetic group of naive losers you all are.

    • 32

      Kelvin says

      there are those who try to work the system… perhaps some of the hardcore couponers… and then there are those who are looking to maximize their savings. I can understand the frustration with people who try to take advantage of the system, but I think it’s misappropriated to use name-calling b/c the system is broken. As they say: “hate the game, not the player!” haha…

      I think it foolish to not be diligent about saving and investing one’s resources. Print media is clearly an outdated medium for effective use of coupon promotion/advertising by the manufacturer considering their objective of getting their product(s) exposed to a wider market. In print media, there is no way to track usage, demographics, and market penetration, etc.

      It’s only a matter of time that this imbalance of coupon usage will be adjusted… the days of coupon inserts is limited… just as the days of the print newspapers are.

  2. 33

    Robert Duncan says

    Valassis sucks! I used to work for them in El Paso.I don’t get coupons by mail.They are wrong to pull the coupons.I am pissed!

  3. 34

    Harold says

    Hmmm…seems like Red Plum is diverting available adverstising dollars (in coupon distributions) from those coupon clipping groups/clubs, as well as some of us who seek multiple of same coupons.

    As Jane indicated, it makes business sense for Red Plum & manufacturers to distribute more coupons to more people. The sad thing is during such economic hard times, the negative impact of this move will leave many soured and frustrated with Red Plum.

    The bright side is you could ask neighbors to save those unwanted Red Plum Direct Mailers for you and collect more coupons. Of course they may also be wanting to use them now…

    • 35

      Briana Carter says

      Harold, part of the problem is people are NOT getting the direct mailers and/or the mailers are full of junk instead of coupons.

  4. 37

    Nameless says

    fyi-I loved getting red plum flyer by mail , have been getting this way for over 1 year except for last week- no delivery.When my neighbor talked to the mail delivery person, she said they don’t have to delivery if your address is not on . I’ve been getting for over 1 year without being specifically address to me. What a croc!!!! Hey, Montgomery Illinois -call the post office and let them know if this has happened to you last week

  5. 38

    Jennifer in SO. MD says

    Also now that I read Jane’s comment or copy or paste I don’t know what paper she gets because almost every weekend I see a couple coupons that were in the paper the week before. I have more household cleaning coupons and fragrance coupons than I need.

  6. 39

    Jennifer in SO. MD says

    I have also realized the emptiness of the coupon section that is the whole reason we go out to get the paper every Sunday morning. I have a newborn so all coupons help and I usually see if my friend uses any. I have picked up the coupon clipping tradition from my mother. The only time I have seen a redplum coupon book is in the mail in what most of us would think of as junk mail but it is a large paper with ads inside.

  7. 40

    Brooke says

    I am incredibly excited to find that Red Plum will mail me their coupons. I live in an incredibly rural environment and can only get a newspaper subscription mailed to me (they do not include ads or coupons when they mail the newspaper). I love couponing but have been very limited by what I can do because of the availability. I will have no problem getting multiple coupons because I have asked my family and friends to sign up and if I can have their coupons. Know if only I could get the rest of the coupons so easily.

  8. 41

    Bargain Briana says

    P.S. Jane’s IP address is from the Valassis Corporation. So “she” is not quite unbiased. I will be writing up a detailed response to this generic cut and paste (which was posted at multiple blogs) in the next few days.

  9. 42

    Jane says

    As an advertising executive that has worked with Valassis and News America for over 20 years as an advertiser within their FSI products, I have a slightly different opinion on this matter.

    Let’s look at the pure economies of scale… newspapers are losing readership (and have been for years). The Cleveland Plain-Dealer (the impetus for much of the negative blog posting) lost 2.7% Sunday circ. from 2004-05, -1.6% in 05-06, -1.4% in 06-07 and the 07-08 figures will not be pretty. Advertisers are looking to reach as many people as possible with their advertising in the most cost-effective manner. The fact is that, while a small group of people may think that their purchase of multiple copies of the newspapers is a powerful driver of successful ROI, the fact is that if an advertiser can reach 10%, 20% 30% or 40+% more people by using the mail for the same cost per person as using a newspaper, that is a good thing!

    The inability of a group of people to buy multiples of a product using multiple coupons is significantly offset by the ability of an advertiser to reach hundreds of thousands of new consumers who might buy their products.

    While consumers may find this hard to believe, manufacturers don’t actually want people buying 10 newspapers to use 10 coupons on their products. They would much rather have 7 new people each use one coupon? Really? They would rather sell 7 items instead of 10? Yes! Coupons are about trial — the goal isn’t to give multiple coupons to a single person — it is to engage a large group of people to try the product and hopefully become regular consumers. To do that, you need to get your coupons in the hands of the most consumers.

    If anyone believes that the manufacturers want them using multiple coupons at one time, they need to know that is not reality. That is why there isn’t a coupon every week for the same product. That is why manufacturers are embracing the move to distribution via direct mail. That is why P&G (the largest pckaged goods company in the world) does not advertise online — they are worried about coupon fraud (i.e., consumers printing multiple copies). By that same argument, they would consider the buying of 10 copies of a newspaper to be “newspaper fraud”. In other words, they don’t want people using 10 coupons. They want you using one coupon and then returning to purchase more of the product at the regular price. If manufacturers really wanted you to buy multiples with coupons, they could provide coupons that can be used on the purchase of “up to 10 products”. Then you only need one coupon and can buy as many of each product as you need. Ask yourself why they don’t do this.

    Additioanlly, the newspaper business is in danger, and it’s got nothing to do with Red Plum moving to mail (I find the posts ironic that claim that Red Plum moving to mail will put the newspapers out of business). The newspapers don’t need any help with that. In the last 2-1/2 months, 33 newspapers have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, including the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer and many more. And, yes they all carry SmartSource and Red Plum coupons and they are still failing financially!

    We really can’t blame Red Plum for listening to their advertisers and providing a strategic solution (with shifts to mail and online couponing) that increase the coverage for their advertisers, allow more consumers to have access to their coupons and provide an option should newspapers close or cease business (like the Rocky Mountain News)?

    Bloggers, while disappointed that they no longer have access to 10 coupons for their favorite product should be thankful that hundreds of thousands of other consumers in their market can now receive coupon discouts during this financially dificult time. They should be excited that, should their newspaper cease operations, they will still be able to receive their Red Plum coupons in the mail. And they should be pushing their retailers to accept online coupons (if they currently don’t). Finally, they should be making friends with their neighbors, because if they want extra coupons, all they need to do is ask their neighbors if they can have theirs (and they don’t even need to buy extra newspapers to get them).

    • 43

      Kelvin says

      THIS is the nail on the head about the point of RedPlum and what their customers (manufacturers) want out of coupons:


      While consumers may find this hard to believe, manufacturers don’t actually want people buying 10 newspapers to use 10 coupons on their products. They would much rather have 7 new people each use one coupon? Really? They would rather sell 7 items instead of 10? Yes! Coupons are about trial — the goal isn’t to give multiple coupons to a single person — it is to engage a large group of people to try the product and hopefully become regular consumers. To do that, you need to get your coupons in the hands of the most consumers.

  10. 44

    patty says

    What is also sad is that so many newspapers are having difficult time now to. So when we stop purchasing Sunday papers because of the lack of coupons. Red Plum is also responsible for hurting the papers circulation and many writers jobs as well. I also like to purchase multiple copies of the paper to get additional coupons.

    • 45

      Kelvin says

      RedPlum is only going where the business. It is also in their interest to protect the interest of their customers (the manufacturers who publish coupons for their products) by deciding best places to place their inserts. unfortunately, targeted cities have inserts pulled most likely b/c the cost of making inserts available in specific papers in specific cities must outweigh the benefits for their customers – the manufacturers.

  11. 46

    Jodi says

    I live between the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Both previously great coupon papers. Now —- not much of anything. I’m very upset.

    Have you seen the website…

    Many people trying to get the word out and hopefully make a difference on RP’s decition.

  12. 48


    I’m in Norfolk, VA and there wasn’t a Red Plum two Sundays ago…What makes this worse is during my shopping yesterday, two of the stores that I could always count on for using my internet coupons told me they weren’t taking them anymore. ARGH! Wal-Mart?! I’m left with Kroger and Farm Fresh.

    Rachels last blog post..Free Samples Galore!

  13. 49

    Heather N says

    I’m in IA and we just bought two different Sunday papers this week and we couldn’t find any coupon inserts in either paper. :( I’m going to email those papers and ask because we buy the Sunday paper just for the coupons. This is an eye opener for me…from now on I’ll be checking before I spend the money for nothing.
    So far I haven’t had problems using the printables but I have only used them in our local grocery stores, I suppose they know me so I don’t run into any problems (many times the clerk will ask management and they always come over look them over and say yes). I’ve heard them say they’ve had problems with fraud on these coupons basically someone has tried to change the amount or alerted them in some way.

    I agree that they will lose sales from the papers if they pull the coupon inserts..I for one will not be buying not 1 but usually 2 on Sunday plus I still print the ones I know our family will use.

  14. 50


    I live in the West Palm Beach area and get 2 different newspapers on Sunday because the paper that is more local has less coupons than the large Palm Beach paper. That and I love gettin 2 sets of most coupons! I do agree, however, that the lack of consistently enforced store policies regarding printable coupons should be considered and appears to not have been.

    Nicoles last blog post..Free Samples

  15. 51

    Bargain Briana says

    Yes, it is kind of addicting to save $! Everyone has to vent! :) I thought you had to love me a little to spend so many hours even if you didn’t like what you had to do…ha ha… :)

  16. 53

    Bargain Briana says

    BTW, Mercedes @ Common Sense with Money wrote this piece a few days ago about the Valassis debacle: Check it out for lots of discussion in the comments. It is always nice to read more than one commentary on a subject like this!

    The deeper market penetration comment sounds like a cop out from Valassis. You don’t cut off one market to get deeper penetration. It appears, they are trying to “diversify” by offering a new approach to coupon inserts but while diversifying they are excluding a large number of current users of their product.

    Effective market penetration will:
    1. Gain competitor’s customers. (Valassis Plan: Fail – I don’t see this happening as more people/manufacturers will flock to Smart Source.)
    2. Convince current customer to use more or gain new customers. (Valassis Plan: Fail. You only have the option to get 1 insert via mail so current customers will not even have the opportunity to increase their usage. New customers may be gained b/c they did not buy the newspaper/have the opportunity to buy a weekly newspaper but the net loss of the people who buy multiple papers just for the coupon inserts will decrease.

    I just think they would have a great impact if they continue the coupon inserts in the newspapers AND reached out via mail. I do appreciate they are offering internet printables but until all stores accept them without discrimination, internet printables aren’t the sole answer.

  17. 54


    The problem is that now there’s no way for people who live in the area to get multiple inserts because they only get mailed one. I am not sure I am convinced about the deeper market penetration reasoning. You idea of offering by mail and in the newspaper is what they should be doing.


  18. 55


    Thanks for the post. I had no idea. You know, in a time when the economy is horrible, and there are so many people without jobs, this will really have an impact. I know that our family of five live off of one income, and every penny that we can save helps out. I think moves like this will hurt companies, because many people only buy items when they have coupons combined with sales. If there are no more coupons, I am sure there are several people who will revert back to all generic brands.

    Brandys last blog post..Giveaway Winners!!

  19. 56


    I’m in a suburb of Washington DC, and the two weeks that we’ve had no RedPlum in the Sunday inserts, it came in the mail on Wednesday with that larger RedPlum junk mail insert. So we did still get them.

    Thanks for sharing this info!

    Ginas last blog post..Meal Planning Monday

  20. 57

    Bargain Briana says

    Thanks for sharing the list. I have no problem with deeper market penetration but why not keep it in the current newspapers AND Offer it via the mail. Offering it via mail does not seem like deeper market penetration to me unless they are going to send it to every single person in that area not just the ones who are requesting it.

    Proctor & Gamble has done promotions where they offer basically a free coupon insert by buying X amount of their products. Red Plum could do something similar with their clients.

    Beth – It probably is similar to the Kokomo Tribune. I’ve noticed they have more ads and less coupons. You only get part of the L’oreal coupons is one big one that I’ve noticed.Occasionally, I have noticed a coupon that is in the KT but not in the Indy Star. That is rare but it does happen!

  21. 58


    Hey BB,

    I posted this on our site. I contacted Valassis directly and got a list of all newspapers and direct mail campaigns that are currently underway. Here is the post:
    I had a very nice conversation with Jennifer at valassis today. She emailed me a list of cities that red plum is now sending out inserts via mail instead of placing them in the newspapers.

    The reason they are doing this is simple. They want deeper market penetration. They want their product in front of more eyes. Often they do not discontinue the newspaper insert, but in some cities they are ONLY available through the mail. Those cities are marked in read and with a “*”.

    Here are the cities currently affected:

    ERIE, PA* (Buffalo, NY has the insert)
    MEMPHIS, TN*(suburban papers contain the insert)
    WASHINGTON DC*(suburban papers contain the insert)

    The original article was posted here:

    Lacys last blog post..Cheap Coke at Bigg’s?

  22. 60

    Jackie says

    I live in New Jersey and hope this isn’t true. The coupon inserts are my favorite part of the weekend paper. With my husband’s business being slow, every penny we save helps.

  23. 63

    Dee says

    I live in Cicero and there were no coupons in the Indy Star this past weekend. I even went to buy a couple of extras from the Gas Station and checked first to see if there was any coupons and sad to say none.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Like what you've read?

Subscribe today to receive free daily updates and download your FREE eBook: 10 Secrets to Extreme Coupon Realistically

Disclaimer: This post may contain a link to an affiliate. See my disclosure policy more information.