Television commercials are expensive. So are newspaper ads. So what's the most cost-effective way to reach potential customers? For Stuart Skorman, president of Empire Video, the answer is to use other stores and businesses in the area to help get your message across.

Skorman, who runs Empire Video Superstore, a chain of five stores based in Keene, N.H., swaps free and half-price movie-rental coupons to area merchants in return for advertising space in their stores. Or he'll offer them advertising space in his stores or in his newsletter to his 17,000 customers. Each year the exchanges get 50,000 to 100,000 pieces of promotion per video store in customers' hands. "It would be hard not to find advertisements for our stores in any of the communities we're in," says Skorman.