Association Of Coupon Professionals - Resources

Published: 23rd of January 2014


ACP’s purpose is clear – to improve coupon industry business conditions, assure the continuance of coupons as a viable sales and marketing tool and to provide for the resoultion of common industry concerns in the development, distribution and redemption of coupons.

With representation from all segments of the couponing industry, the ACP board of directors and its committees are continually looking at ways to improve the processing of coupons. We want to make the system work better for everyone invloved.

ACP’s In-Ad Subcommittee was charged with the task of developing guidelines that improve the processing of In-Ad coupons from the design phase through redemption. We hope you find these guidelines helpful. We believe they effectively provide a prototype for the efficient handling of In-Ad coupons.

Recommended Guidelines Description

An In-Ad coupon is a coupon sponsored by the retailer, usually in conjunction with the manufacturer. While the retailer is responsible for printing and distributing In-Ad coupons, the manufacturer may pay for all or a portion of the coupon expense.

Current Situation

Since there are currently no industry standards for designing In-Ad coupons or for administering and executing In-Ad programs, In-Ad coupons frequently cause confusion for the industry;

Various problems exsist with In-Ad coupons as they are typically designed today. Some of the major concerns are:

1) The coupon’s ” save” value is often not shown on the coupon. Instead a feature price is printed. This can cause confusion as to the value of the coupon at the check out or at the processor level, resulting in the improper coupon redemption and accurate retailer reimbursement.

2) In many instances, no coupon redemption address appears on the coupon. The lack of an address often results in the improper invoicing of the In-Ad coupon. This slows the process, delays retailer payments and increases retailer deductions.

3) Some manufacturers require the In-Ad coupons be sent to a different redemption address from their regular manufacturer coupons. If the In-Ad coupons for these manufacturers are bar-coded with the standard UPC identification found on their manufacturer coupons, problems may occur at the processing level Many processors now utilize scan technology to sort coupons by manufacturer identification number. Bar coded In-Ads become impossible to separate from regular manufacturer coupons without additional sorting through manual intervention. This can result in processing delays or the improper invoicing of the In-ad coupons.

4) Many In-Ad coupons are labeled as “manufacturer coupon”, not “In-Ad” coupon. For those manufacturers requiring that In-Ad coupons be sent to a different redemption address from their regular shipment, this causes uncertainty as to how to sort and process those coupons.

ACP Design Recommendations

In-Ad coupon designs should follow the basic Joint Coupon Guidelines for well-designed coupons. In addition, because of the nature of the In-Ad coupons, ACP recommends the following design criteria to aid in the processing efforts:

1) In-Ad coupons must contain the phrase “Good Only At:____________” or “Redeem Only At:____________” in conjunction with the retailer name or logo. This phrase must be in bold type and must be placed in either the top center of the coupon under the expiration date, or at the bottom center of the coupon.

2) All In-Ad coupons must have the words “In-Ad Coupon” in bold type located at the top center of coupon. The phrase must be placed inside a box with the expiration information. The words “manufacturer coupon” must not be used on an In-Ad coupon.

3) All In-Ad coupons must have expiration information in bold type. The expiration information must be placed in a box at the top center of the coupon in conjunction with the “In-Ad Coupon” clarifier. The expiration information must specify the period of time for which the coupon is valid.

4) The value that the retailer will be reimbursed for the In-Ad coupon is to be in the top right corner of the coupon. The following coding scheme is recommended on all In-Ad coupons to insure proper redemption and payment:

MRVOO5ORetailer Redemption Value equals x cents (In this example, the value is 50 cents.) This is the value that the manufacturer has agreed to reimburse the retailer (excluding handling fee).MRV0100

Maximum Redemption Value (In this example, the maximum value reimbursed would be $1.00.) The maximum redemption value must be included with all free offers.

For “free” coupon offers, space to write in the value of the product must be in a box labelled “Retail Price”. The box must be located below the Maximum Redemption Value in the top right corner. Under the words, “Retail Price” there must be parenthesis containing the maximum retail value (see sample following).


No Redemption Value. The coupon is a store sponsored coupon. The retailer receives no reimbursement for the coupon from the manufacturer.

This coding scheme (RY, MRV, NRV) allows retailers and manufacturers to use feature pricing or consumer savings that differ from the manufacturer’s reimbursement to the retailer. This insures that processors will clearly understand what is the proper amount to reimburse retailers.

5) An illustration of the product is an optional item that can be placed on in-ad coupons at the retailer’s or manufacturer’s discretion.

6) Offer, program or tracking codes used by manufacturers and/or retailers must be on the center right-hand side of the coupon. If a bar code is used, the offer code should be placed above this code. This allows the processors to quickly locate the offer code for key entry.

7) The standard size for all In-Ad should be consistent with the Joint Industry Coupon Guidelines. These guidelines are:

    • Length: 6 inches with tolerance to 3 inches
    • Width: 2 1/2 inches with tolerance to 2 1/16 inches

8) The name and address of the manufacturer or redemption center to which the coupons are to be shipped for reimbursement must appear on the coupon in the lower left or lower center of the in-ad coupon. This provides the processor with the ability to invoice the correct manufacturer and reimburse the retailer promptly.

9) The ACP recommends legal copy be on the coupon. It should be positioned directly below the redemption address. It should be noted, that three states (Indiana, Utah, Washington) require a declaration of cash redemption value on the coupon.

10) When running a tobacco advertisement, the Surgeon General requires that one of the following four statements be included (the ACP suggests this be added to the legal copy):

    • Surgeon General Warning: Smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease and emphysema and may complicate pregnancy
    • Surgeon General Warning: Quitting smoking now greatly reduces serious risks to your health
    • Surgeon General Warning: Smoking by pregnant women may result in fetal injury, premature birth and low birth weight
    • Surgeon General Warning: Cigarette smoke contains carbon monoxide

11) The terms of each In-Ad coupon offer, whether it be for a specific size, style or variety, must be clearly stated and in bold type on the coupon so that it is easy to read and understand. Center placement is recommended.

12) The coupon “consumer” value can be stated as a feature price or “save” value. If a feature price is used, it should be placed in the center of the coupon and pre-fixed with the purchase requirement (i.e. 3 cans for $1.99 with coupon). If a save value is used it should also be placed in the center of the coupon and pre-fixed with the word “Save” (i.e. Save 50¢ with coupon).

At this time, the ACP has no recommendation as to whether or not In-Adcoupons should be bar-coded. Problems exist on both sides of the issue. A joint industry committee is currently looking at the use of a unique bar coding structure for all in-store distributed coupons.

A well designed In-Ad coupon can minimize the errors in properly valuing the coupons and improve the time required to process them and reimburse the retailer. When designing an In-Ad coupon, it is important to remember not to print information too close to the edge of the coupon. The proper design of In-Ad coupons will assist in reducing the number of problems and adjustments relating to In-Ad coupons.

Additional Recommendations

The ACP recomments that In-Ad coupons be submitted for reimbursement as soon as possible but not more than 6 months after the promotion date.

The ACP also recommends that retailers redeem In-Ad coupons in compliance with the terms set forth in their agreements with manufacturers.

Coupon Samples

Sample 1.

Sample 2.

Design Checklist

Check each item on the list. Words in italics are actual phrases that would be used on the coupon. Use sample coupons as a reference.

Check Off Coupon Format Recommended Location
1. In-Ad Coupon Identified Top Center Box
2. Valid: ________ – ________ Top Center Box
3. Redeem Only At: __(retailers name)__ Top Center
4. Redemption Value
(choose one, insert value when needed)  RV__ __ __ __ =Redemption value
MRV__ __ __ __ =Maximum Redeption Value. 
Note:Retail Price Box must be included with MRV  NRV =No Redemption Value
Top Right Corner
5. Offer code Lower Right Quadrant
6. UPC Bar Code - OPTIONAL Lower Right Quadrant
7. In-Ad Promotion Terms
(i.e., size, variety, quantity)
8. Consumer Value
(i.e., Save 25 Cents, $1.99 with Coupon)
9. Retailer: Mail to _(Redemption Address)_ Lower Left Quadrant
10. Legal Copy (terms of agreement) Lower Left Qudrant
11. Product Illustration - OPTIONAL Center Left


Coupon size should meet standard requirements. (i.e. length: 6″ to 3″, Width: 2 1/2″ to 2 1/16″). Do not print information to close to the edge of the coupon.

Recommended Reason Codes

Using The Existing Reason Codes

The following existing reason codes are recommended for use with In-Ad coupons. Several existing codes require additional clarification to the current reason code description in order to be used with In-Ad coupons. These codes have an asterisk after the code with suggested changes to the existing code included.

When In-Ad coupons require a reason code adjustment, the following existing reason codes should be used along with the existing guidelines that are recommended for that code.


Code Description 


5. Coupon Appearance
To be used when In-Ad coupons are gang cut or when the physical appearance of the In-Ad coupons indicates that they were not redeemed in compliance with the policy. The recommended level for coupon chargebacks is a minimum of 5 coupons or $2.00.
7. Expired Coupons
To. be used when In Ad coupons are submitted later than the coupon’s published expiration date. It is recommended that manufacturers enforcing expiration dates allow a six month grace period for processing through the redemption system. The recommended level for coupon chargebacks is a minimum of 5 coupons or $2.00.
Do Not Return
9. Proof of Purchase Required
To be used when the manufacturer requires additional information regarding proof of product purchased for a specific time or In-Ad offer. The recommended level for coupon chargebacks is a minimum of 5 coupons or $2.00.
Do Not Return
10. Excessive Coupon Volume
To be used when the number of In-Ad coupons submitted exceeds reasonable redemption levels for the volume of product purchased or the number of In-Ad coupons distributed. The recommended level for coupon chargebacks is a minimum of 5 coupons or $2.00.
Do Not Return
14. Billed to Incorrect Address
To be used when coupons are included in the submission which are not for that manufacturer’s products. Coupons should be returned to sender. No minimum for coupon chargebacks is recommended.
In those cases where the manufacturer requests that retailers send In-Ad coupons to a separate redemption address, if the In-Ad coupons are sent incorrectly to the manufacturer’s regular redemption address, the reason code “Billed to Incorrect Address” should be used. The coupons should be returned. No minimum for coupon chargebacks is recommended
Return Coupon


Suggested Changes to Existing Reason Codes

(The ACP Guideline Review Committee is currently looking at all of the reason codes. We both recommend that the reason codes 9, 10 & 14 be re-worded as below.)

Reason Code Number 9:
Proof of Purchase Required

Add to the description: “In order for the retailer to provide proof of purchase to the manufacturer, it is the manufacturer’s responsibility to provide the retailer with specifics regarding the time period or offer detail in question”

Reason Code Number 10:
Excessive Coupon Volume

Add to the description: “…reasonable redemption levels for the volume of product purchased or the number of coupons distributed.”

(i.e. The description would then read: “The number of coupons submitted exceeds reasonable redemption levels for the volume of product purchased or the number of coupons distributed.”)

Reason Code Number 14
Not Our Coupons-Returned
Change the title to read: Billed to Incorrect Address

Add to the description: “…or which are for their products but were billed to the wrong redemption address.”

(i.e. The description would then read: “Manufacturer or agent is returning coupons which are not for their products or which are for their products but were billed to the wrong redemption address. Please review for correct address.”)

Recommended New Reason Codes

The following new reason codes have been developed to help manufacturers clarify adjustments being made to In-Ad coupon submissions. It is recommended that the existing code #21 be discontinued and the following five codes be added:

25 In-Ad Offer Code Discrepancy

To be used when the In-Ad offer code is not printed or is incorrectly printed on the coupon. Also use when the In-Ad offer code is not authorized by the manufacturer. The recommended level for coupon chargebacks is a minimum of 5 coupons or $2.00.

26 Non-Compliance of In-Ad Promotion Terms

To be used when the information on the In-Ad coupon is incomplete or not in compliance with the terms of the promotion (i.e. incorrect consumer purchase requirements or legal copy). The recommended level for coupon chargebacks is a minimum of 5 coupons or $2.00.

27 Competitive Retailers’ In-ad Coupon

To be used when the In-Ad coupons submitted by the retailer were from a competitor’s In-Ad advertisement. The recommended level for coupon chargebacks is a minimum of 5 coupons or $2.00.

28 Non-compliance of In-Ad Promotion Period

To be used when the In-Ad promotion ran too many times and/or outside the promotion period. The recommended level for coupon chargebacks is a minimum of 5 coupons or $2.00.

29 In-Ad Contract Not On File

To be used when a valid offer code is on the In-Ad coupon but no contract is on file for the store submitting the In-Ad coupon. The recommended level for coupon chargeback is a minimum of 5 coupons or $2.00.