Last Updated Jun 12, 2009 12:56 PM EDT
The News America clients named on just the first day of the trial were:
Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Dial, S.C. Johnson, Georgia-Pacific, Campbells, Sara Lee, Pepsi, Church & Dwight, Johnson Family Co., Kraft, Coca-Cola, Conagra, Cadbury, Ocean Spray, Clorox, Novartis, Pfizer, Tropicana and Reckitt-Benckiser. Valassis, the plaintiff in the case, claims that the bundled deals banned clients from News America's near monopoly on supermarket in-store marketing unless they also bought into News America's coupon business. By subsidizing its coupon deals with its in-store monopoly, Valassis has been driven out of newspaper coupons, Valassis claims. Valassis also claims that clients who chose it for newspaper coupons were threatened with punitive rates if they also wanted in-store services from News America.
The trial is subject to a de facto media blackout and thus, BNET's coverage of it is delayed by several days as we rely on sources to relay what's going on. But in Valassis' opening statements it became clear that the company intends to use News America's own clients against it in order to make its case. Some of those clients seem to be annoyed that being required to take the bundled deal when they only want the in-store stuff.
Former Sara Lee director of business development Debra Lucidi is shaping up to be Valassis' star witness. She asked News America to give her a proposal on in-store marketing but NAM submitted a joint coupon/in-store bid instead, and refused to alter it. If Sara Lee declined the offer, the implication was that News America would either not let them advertise in-store or charge exhorbitant rates. She told a deposition:
Answer: News America pretty much had the market captured on that. I believe they still do. We didn't really have options.Lucidi said she brought up the unfair pricing issue with News America but "they never seemed to care that much" because they regarded it as their business model.
Question: Do you believe that News America imposed an economic penalty on the price of in-store promotions because Sara Lee awarded the FSI contract to Valassis?
Answer: I believe they attempted to and unless something changed, yes, they would have done that.
Question: And they did do it in 2004, right?
Question: If someone from News America were to testify that News America never threatened to charge a higher in-store price, if the company gave its FSI business to Valassis, that would not be an accurate statement in your experience?
Answer: Absolutely incorrect and there is documentation that shows that.
The jury was also promised deposition testimony from Christine Hall, a former Pepsi employee. She said:
I felt that Valassis -- that News America had somewhat of a monopoly on in-store so they were pretty much forced to go with them in-store and leveraging their in-store to get FSI, I did not think was fair and I didn't like it.Also on the list, the manager of consumer promotions from Heinz:
Question: Would giving News America 100 percent of the prepaid insert business [be] a deviation from what your preference and practice would have been?More to come.
- See BNET's previous coverage of the in-store marketing wars:
- Heinz, Quaker, Sara Lee Feature in Valassis v. News America Trial
- CVN Protests Camera Ban at Valassis v. News America Trial
- Valassis v. News America: Whistleblower Emmel's Prior Testimony Allowed In
- Cameras Banned at Valassis v. News America Trial; Whistleblower Emmel Also Ruled Out
- On Eve of Valassis vs. News America Trial in State Court, a Federal Judge Looks On --
- UPDATED: News America Marketing's Acquisition of Floorgraphics Not Big Enough to Show Up in Q1 Numbers
- Valassis Q1: Legal Bills Running at 22% of Profits; Hints of Layoffs?
- News America Marketing Sues Valassis Alleging Bogus Web Posts
- Valassis Accused of Using Hidden Identities in Online War With News America Marketing
- News America Marketing Forces Whistleblower Into Bankruptcy
- News America Marketing Whistleblower: Clients Were Charged for Ads That Never Appeared
- Was N.Y. Post's Carlucci the Reason for News America Marketing's Settlement With Floorgraphics?