Marketers Hold The Promo Line In 2011, Coupon Volume Drops For First Time In Years

In what could be an important lagging indicator that Madison Avenue is continuing to emerge from the effects of the global economic recession, coupon volume declined significantly in 2011, reversing an upward trend of the previous couple of years as marketers shifted to more consumer promotion strategies to stimulate consumer purchasing.

Some 272 billion free-standing insert (FSI) coupons were distributed in 2011 -- a decline of 6.5% from 2010, according to estimates released today by WPP’s Kantar Media unit.

The 2011 decline follows two consecutive years of annual increases, including a 7.2% gain in 2010 and an 8.0% gain in 2009.

The decrease may be a positive indicator for the advertising marketplace, since marketers historically shift budgets from brand-building advertising into consumer price promotions during periods of weak consumer demand. During 2011, Kantar estimated the value of the coupons distributed was worth more than $421 billion in consumer price incentives.



Another strong indicator: the average “face value” of coupon offers did not increase during 2011. It actually declined slightly from 2010. At $1.55, the average face value per coupon distributed in 2011 was down 0.2% from 2010.

Coupled with declines in another important metric -- the average expiration time per coupon offer, which fell 5.2% from 2010 -- this indicates "that manufacturers are managing their financial exposure by maintaining current offer values, reducing the number of coupons distributed, and shortening the length of time that these offers are available in the market,” Kantar said.

Despite the overall decrease in 2011 coupon activity, Kantar said the number of retailer promotion pages within FSIs recorded a 30.7% increase to more than 17.0 billion pages in 2011. That trajectory continues the significant annual increases in retailer promotion activity, which began in 2007.

“Consumer packaged goods manufacturers continue to include FSI coupons as part of their marketing mix to reach millions of households with a relevant brand message and purchase incentive during a specific week,” stated David Hamric, general manager, Kantar Media Marx, explaining: “Increasingly, manufacturers and retailers are participating in cooperative events to influence the shopper on their path-to-purchase, making FSI coupons an important lead indicator of competitive promotion tactics, creative brand messaging and retailer promotion alignment.”

On a negative note, the volume of coupon campaigns supporting new product introductions also declined in 2011. Kantar estimated that FSI coupons supported 291 new product introductions in 2011, down from 344 during 2010.

2011 versus 2010



% Change

Dollars Circulated

$421 billion


Coupons Dropped

272 billion


Pages Distributed

205 billion


Face Value (average)



Fuse (weeks)



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Source: Kantar Media

4 comments about "Marketers Hold The Promo Line In 2011, Coupon Volume Drops For First Time In Years".
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  1. Ronnie Perchik from PromoAid, LLC, January 5, 2012 at 12:25 p.m.

    I view this as a sign of continued growth for Shopper Marketing and non traditional marketing vehicles as well.

    We now track over 3,000 companies offering 10,000+ marketing vehicles for brands to utilize to reach consumers. Funding has to come from somewhere as budgets grow marginally, so it looks like a shift from Coupon Inserts to fund these options.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, January 5, 2012 at 12:27 p.m.

    You missed a point - value. Many coupons have too little value to buy a brand that is more expensive using that coupon than another without it. Some companies may wind up turning around and find out there is a bite missing behind them.

  3. Gary Loehr from Valassis Communications, January 6, 2012 at 9:15 a.m.

    Two points not covered:
    1. The increase in alternate coupon delivery vehicles, namely digital.
    2. Many of these reductions were as a result of higher redemptions blowing budgets. Let's see what Inmar and NCH report on redemption.
    (Note: I am no longer with Valassis.)

  4. Jeffery Beliveau from PFC, January 10, 2012 at 5:51 p.m.

    I agree with Gary's points. Further, this also ignores in-store coupons. How many campaigns were shifted from FSIs to in-store?

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