As the world continues to embrace digital communication and items like phone books and printed newspapers become symbols of days gone by, many members of Associated Food Stores (AFS) are increasingly making digital marketing a larger, and more successful, part of their advertising strategy. Last week, the AFS marketing department had its fiftieth retailer sign up for the company’s digital services. 

“Helping our member stores make the move from a printed weekly ad that is distributed through either Vericast [formerly Valassis] or their local paper may be one of the most important retail-facing initiatives we have in 2023,” said Jason Sokol, vice president of marketing at AFS. 

The AFS marketing team currently offers affordable and effective solutions for email, social media and paid media for retailers to market their weekly ad, in-store offerings, rewards program and eCommerce services.  

“Moving from print to digital can be challenging at first, but it pays off. If you consider the print ad, most of the development process happens at AFS, except for any retailer-specific changes retailers make to their ads each week,” said Jason. “With that said, the process of moving to our digital solution is straightforward and we’re here to help every step of the way.”  

To print weekly ads, the AFS category management team works with the vendor trade to plan events and promotions. Then, the AFS advertising team prebuilds and merchandises the weekly print ad. AFS member retailers review proofs and make any desired changes. From there, the ads are saved as high-resolution PDF documents and sent to the printer, who prints the ads and works with AFS or specific retailers to deliver the ads to shoppers using their local papers or Vericast. This tried-and-true process has served AFS and its member retailers for decades. 

As stores move into the digital age, AFS will still produce weekly ads for stores. However, AFS will strategically shift away from distributing a print ad to distributing a digital ad. While many of the development steps stay in place, for digital distribution AFS uploads ads to retailers’ websites, but the upload is not the end of the process. 

Customers need to know where to find retailers’ digital ads and they benefit from continued reminders of the great deals and promotions found there. This is where digital media comes into play. Backed by national and local research, AFS marketing experts strongly recommend using a combination of social media, email and paid digital so shoppers frequently see relevant weekly savings and offerings on their phones, tablets, computers and, in some cases, even connected TVs and digital radio. These marketing tools drive shoppers to retailers’ web and ecommerce sites to explore digital ads, create shopping lists and either visit brick-and-mortar locations or place orders for delivery or pickup.  

“We know retailers are extremely busy and want to make sure their marketing is taken care of and in line with the promotions they are already running,” said Maddie Gilbert, digital marketing manager, AFS. “The goal is to make the process as simple and effective as possible.” 

The AFS marketing team has built a straightforward digital marketing solution that retailers can use to get their weekly digital ad to the broadest possible relevant audience in their communities. Retailers who are interested in learning more about these services should contact Emily Butlin at for more information. Also, the digital ad transition will be a major part of this year’s FoodShow and marketing experts will be on hand to assess individual store situations and help retailers outline plans for next steps.