ValPak ventures from direct mail to digital coupons - FOX 13 News

ValPak ventures from direct mail to digital coupons

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PINELLAS PARK (FOX 13) -

In a towering building off Interstate 275, man and machine are working side-by-side to save consumers money.

ValPak, famous for its venerable blue envelope, prints 20 billion offers a year right here. 490 million envelopes are rushed coast-to-coast.

The marathon never ends. The presses race through 2,000 feet of paper per minute and guzzles hundreds of gallons of color ink.

In addition 400 workers, ValPak also to employs robots do the work. Cut from the same mechanical cloth as automobile manufacturing robots, ValPak's drones help sort, lift, and channel an endless rivers of post office trays.

The manufacturing process, swift and pristine, is the envy of other large companies -- many of whom send representatives to Florida to witness the ValPak way.

But the real magic is in the envelope: the offers.

ValPak's research chief, Keith Malo, attributes the company's success to narrowly targeting the ads to homeowners who have money to spend. Specifically, Malo said ValPak aims to send its offer to areas where average household income exceeds $88,000 per year. Malo said time is short; the typical ValPak customer only looks at the ads for two minutes.

To ensure those offers do what they're supposed to, Malo said ValPak regularly tests its coupons on focus groups.

"We ask them to come in a put on a pair of eyeglasses," he said. Specialized glasses track the panelists' eye movements as they leaf through the packets.

"It's military technology," Malo said. "If we don't know where they're focused, we can't connect with most successfully."

The data is so good, ValPak has developed a proprietary graphical layout for its offers, nicknamed OHIO, which stands for Offer-Headline-Information-Other. The offer, a.k.a coupon, is almost always printed on the right side—because that's where the eye studies show consumers look first.

And that's where designers come into play. ValPak has an army of 57 designers handling orders from all over the country. About seven miles west of the printing press, an ironically drab office floor gives birth to colorful, attention-grabbing ads of all kinds.

And the work nearly never stops.

"It's very, very deadline driven," said Cathy Croce, ValPak's V.P. of Order Process.

At the same time ValPak continues cranking out paper coupons, it is also entering the realm that could ultimately kill the old-fashioned paper coupon: digital offers.

"Your brain can put them at opposites, but they don't have to be at opposites," said CEO Michael Vivio.

Vivio said ValPak's 45 years of experience provides a competitive advantage to the company's the digital initiatives, including smartphone apps and a system by which offers are digitally displayed on select vehicles.

"We are way out in front," he said.

For the moment, however, there's no stopping the presses.

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