Cub Foods Wants Papers To Rat On Other Grocers’ Spending

By: Mark Fitzgerald

The Midwest supermarket chain Cub Foods is asking newspaper advertising departments to reveal what its competitors are spending each month on ads.

In an extraordinary e-mail sent Tuesday to nearly three dozen papers ranging from The Post-Crescent in Appleton, Wis., to the Chicago Sun-Times, Cub Foods requested a detailed accounting of spending by other supermarkets. The e-mail was forwarded to E&P by one of its recipients.

Here is the text of the e-mail:

“Good Morning!! Cub Foods is continuing to update our Advertising Database, and would like a monthly update on our competitor’s spending. If you could insert the appropriate information into the form below, that would be great. You can email this information back to me as soon as you have finished it or if faxing is easier, our fax is listed below! Please send to my attention.”

The e-mail is signed by a person identified as an intern by a receptionist at the chain’s Stillwater, Minn., headquarters.

Below the message is a form asking newspapers to list the competitor by name, the number of ROP (run of press) ads, number of inserts and total spending by the competitor at the newspaper.

“We certainly would not cooperate with that request, that’s my professional opinion,” said Steve Gall, vice president of advertising for The Duluth (Minn.) News-Tribune. Gall said he had not seen the e-mail, which was sent to another person in the advertising department.

Cub Foods made similar requests several years ago, said Ann Young, advertising director of The Journal-Standard in Freeport, Ill.

“I didn’t respond to be honest,” she said. The paper, she added, has a “great relationship” with its local Cub Foods store.

Cub Foods is owned by Supervalu, the 11th largest food retailer and one of the nation’s biggest food distributors. Cub Foods has grown from five stores in the Twin Cities area in 1980 to more than 110 stores throughout the Midwest, according to its Web site.

Calls to two different advertising executives at Cub Foods requesting comment were not returned. There was no immediate response to an e-mail requesting comment from anyone with the authority to discuss the message sent to the newspapers.

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