SAN JOSE, Calif. — Vyrlmkt, the marketing company at the center of an Internet coupon controversy, will stay out of the couponing business for a while, but possibly not forever, its president told SN. “We’re committed to the idea of building a business in which commerce can take place in a viral networking environment,” Harry Soza said. However, if the company does get involved in Internet couponing again, it won’t be anything like the test it ran Aug. 15 in an application within the Facebook social networking site, he added. The Association of Coupon Professionals and the Coupon Information Corp. have lashed out at the test, which they said resulted in distribution of unauthorized consumer packaged goods coupons. The situation arose when Vyrlmkt sought to test a new feature for Facebook by posting coupons for products that had the logos and names of several CPG brands that did not authorize such use. “What we did was wrong, and we will never do it again,” Soza said. “We understand that our tiny experiment was out of line, but it was supposed to be contained.” Still, he said the test proved that the 18-to-28-year-old market is open to commerce via viral marketing. “Our test demonstrated that we have a commerce platform that will be spread in a viral nature,” he said. The test involved 15 offers ranging from 50 cents off to about $6, according to Soza. About 50 to 100 coupons were supposed to be available. But once the test coupons were made available, people starting blogging about them, leading more people to want them. After the allocated amount was depleted, some people used computer manipulation to access additional offers, said Soza. He said the hackers also managed to access and print offers meant to be shown only as examples during sales presentations. ACP executive director John Morgan told SN a consumer sent him 24 high-value coupons, including $16 off an eight-pack of razors and $8 off a six-pack of water. Several of the coupons even had face values that exceeded the product’s retail price. ACP guidelines say no offer should exceed $5. The ACP said the coupons lacked controls to prevent multiple copies and counterfeiting. ACP also blasted Vyrlmkt for not getting permission from the CPG companies to use their trademarks. The legitimate coupons Vyrlmkt distributed had a total face value of several thousand dollars, Soza said. He plans to reimburse retailers for that amount plus several times more. He said he’s also reported the counterfeiting situation to the FBI.
Read More of Today's Headlines