A new ad campaign from MaineToday Media is offering businesses free advertising when they give their customers special discounts, and readers are being encouraged to sign up now for upcoming e-mail alerts.

The Maine Deal is a one-day promotion during the week, or a two-day package on weekends, that will appear on MaineToday Media newspaper websites. Participating businesses must agree to offer a discount that’s at least half off the regular rate, such as a $50 gift certificate at a restaurant for $25.

A companion promotion, Maine Weekly Deals, will work the same way, but will appear for a week. It’s meant for discounts that may have less immediate demand, such as an oil change.

All deals must be approved by MaineToday Media management.

The deals will start appearing within the next two weeks or so, and readers can sign up now for e-mails on what’s being promoted each day. For more information, click on the Maine Deal promotional banner on the newspaper website’s home page.

The campaign gives businesses the opportunity to attract new customers and encourage current customers to come in more often.

Customers can take advantage of the discounts by logging onto the newspapers’ website, clicking on the Maine Deals ad and providing credit card information to accept the deal. They’ll get an e-mail that includes a voucher for their deal, which they can present to the participating business.

Participating businesses will get a front-page mention on the day of their deal. Participants in Maine Weekly Deals will get a free mention at least twice during the week.