The publisher of one of the two major coupon inserts, owner of one of the two major coupon clearinghouses, and steward of one of the most famous names in coupon history has agreed to sell off those parts of its business, to a company that appears to have a commitment to marketing in good old-fashioned printed form, but is also seeking to expand its presence in the digital realm.

R.R. Donnelley (RRD) has announced its plans to “acquire digital and print marketing businesses” from Vericast, the publisher of the Save coupon inserts, owner of the coupon processing company NCH Marketing, distributor of direct-mail advertisements, provider of digital marketing services, and more. The transaction includes Vericast’s Digital Marketing & Technology Solutions segment, which includes targeted advertising and online marketing, as well as print marketing services including shared mail, the Save inserts and the coupon clearing business.

Neither RRD nor Vericast responded to numerous requests for comment, which seems an unusual thing to do after issuing a news release inviting news coverage of your newsworthy business transaction. So we’re left to read the tea leaves as to what the new owner’s commitment to coupons might be.

RRD’s roots are in commercial printing, and much of its current business remains devoted to offline “marketing, packaging, print and supply chain solutions.” According to the emphasis in its announcement, at least, RRD seems most interested in its new acquisition’s digital capabilities, as well as its direct mail advertising services.

“The acquisition of these businesses strengthens RRD’s existing marketing creative execution with digital marketing capabilities,” RRD CEO Tom Quinlan was quoted as saying in the announcement. Meanwhile, “the shared mail business will complement our targeted mail platform to create one of the largest and one of the most sophisticated mail platforms in the U.S.”


And the exciting capabilities that the Save coupon insert and the coupon processing business will bring? Well, sure, they’re part of the transaction, too, but nothing that RRD seems to be crowing about.

What is today known as the Save coupon insert has been through multiple iterations over the years (remember RedPlum? RetailMeNot Everyday?) But it began life more than 50 years ago as the Valassis insert, named after its founder, coupon pioneer George Valassis. The Valassis company has been through a number of ownership changes since then, most recently about a decade ago, when it was acquired by its current owner, now known as Vericast. Valassis by then also owned NCH Marketing, which collects redeemed coupons from retailers, sorts them by manufacturer, and reimburses the retailers that accepted them from shoppers.

The printed coupon insert business, though, along with the paper coupon processing business, are in decline as more coupons go digital. Fewer manufacturers are offering coupons in the Sunday newspaper inserts, which has led to thinner and fewer inserts (there have only been five Save inserts so far this year). And with fewer shoppers redeeming fewer paper coupons, there’s less demand for the services of coupon processing warehouses capable of sorting and handling millions of paper coupons.

Vericast has sought to diversify into digital coupons and digital coupon processing services, while also signaling its continued commitment to printed coupons. “We believe in this strategy as a viable solution for our client partners,” Vericast said a couple of years ago on the occasion of its coupon insert’s 50th anniversary.

But the only print business that RRD seems publicly enthused about is Vericast’s direct-mail advertising capabilities. And it seemed very determined to get it, as this is at least the third time it’s tried. In 2022 and again in 2023, RRD’s private equity owner Chatham Asset Management offered to buy Vericast outright for some $3 billion. Instead, it will now settle for acquiring the parts of the business that Vericast is willing to part with, for an undisclosed amount.

So if you like getting ads in your mailbox or ads on your screen while you browse online, RRD is looking forward to continuing to provide them to you. But if you like coupons to help you save money on your groceries, here’s hoping that Save’s new owner decides to continue the legacy of George Valassis for many more years to come.

Image source: Vericast

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