Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Pretty Poly

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Pretty Poly

Article excerpt

Libeskind is a freelance writer who specializes in marketing from his base in Brooklyn, N.Y

Plastic bags and the color of money

They're just plastic bags, but they perform double and sometimes triple duty for American newspapers.

That's because polybags don't just carry newspapers anymore. They carry four-color advertising and product samples and have become an important tool in the advertising/marketing mix.

"There has been growth in the interest in printed bags as a way for papers to turn an expense item into a revenue generator," says Pam Hauserman, director of sales and marketing for GP Plastics, a Dallas polybag manufacturer. "In the last few years papers have been more active about selling advertising on the bags, and there's been a growth in pouch bags that carry product samples."

According to the Newspaper Association of America, 560 papers offer print advertising on their polybags and 413 can insert product samples in the bags.

Virtually every major paper is doing it, with most using the bags for printed advertising far more often than for product samples, though sampling is now growing at a phenomenal rate.

Ads on the bags are called billboards -- for their impact. "They're the best billboard in town, because they reach over 50% of households," says Joe Antle, ad director of the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot. The ads, which can be printed in up to six colors, depending on who does the printing, are being used by a variety of advertisers, including department stores, restaurants, financial institutions and radio stations.

It all began in Chicago in 1993, when Dayton Hudson Discount Stores encouraged the Chicago Tribune to try it. "When they opened in Chicago, they had a huge media blitz," says Joe Murzanski, Tribune auto manager "They nudged us along to get into it and then we got organized."

Since then, papers across the country have begun selling ads on the bags.

Antle says department stores are still the best customers, using the bags to announce store openings and special sales. He says the tactic is so successful it can "take TV money away from a store like Super Kmart," the discount retailer that sometimes uses polybags instead of TV to announce special events.

The Houston Chronicle may be the most prodigious newspaper polybag ad marketer in the nation, with ads on bags 75% of the time, according to Dwight Brown, vice president of advertising.

It may deploy as many as three or four different bags in a single day for distribution in various parts of its market, he says, noting that the paper can zone the bags geographically and demographically to targeted ZIP codes.

Brown says the bags can be used in conjunction with other advertising. In a typical multimedia campaign for a large retailer, "we can use a bag ad, tie it in with ROP and an insert and create a Web site for the customer," he says, adding that the Web address might be printed on the bag.

Gary Vasques, executive vice president of marketing at Kohl's Department Stores, a Menominee, Wis.-based chain of 197 stores in 22 states, uses the bags frequently in the Chicago Tribune an other papers. 'It's billboard advertising to announce store openings and special events at certain times of the year," he says.

Vasques always runs bag ads with ROP, and most papers try to combine the two to maximize revenue. But some papers don't require it, allowing advertisers to use the bags on a stand-alone basis.

"Some advertisers, like fast food restaurants and Domino's Pizza, don't want to be in the paper, but want to use the bags," says Frank Cannon, senior treasurer of PDI Plastics, a Perryville, Mo., bag manufacturer. In this sense, the bags enable newspapers to attract advertisers they might not otherwise be able to get.

Bag ads are often one-time affairs, but some papers are trying to induce repeat users. …

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