Thursday, March 29, 2007

Wal-Mart TV lets advertisers surprise, delight and experiment

By now anybody who frequents the digital signage industry is probably sick of hearing about Wal-Mart TV. After all, this decade-old in-store TV channel has probably made the news more than all other digital signage networks combined, but with an average weekly audience of over 120 million viewers, it's just too tantalizing and too noteworthy to leave alone.

Thus, I was unsurprised to see yet another article about Wal-Mart TV and its management company, PRN, in the news today, this time in USA Today. While the timing seems a bit odd (PRN hasn't announced anything new since the major upgrade to the network it started last year), the focus of the article wasn't on the screens or the technology or anything else nuts-and-bolts. Instead, it was a look at some of the more innovative ways that marketers are using to try and reach consumers as the media viewing marketplace becomes increasingly more fragmented and difficult to reach. Look at some of the cool marketing experiments that the article profiles:

• Frito-Lay. A 13-minute, high-definition clip of [a special Tim] McGraw concert will run continuously on Saturday [3/31/07] in Wal-Mart electronics departments, near displays that showcase both Lay's chips and McGraw's new CD, Let It Go.

The video and display also highlight charity work by McGraw and Lay?s for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Lay's before has run mainly traditional commercials on Wal-Mart TV. "This is certainly a very different approach" for Lay's marketing, says Justin Lambeth, director of marketing for the brand.

• Pfizer's Listerine. The company used the new end-of-aisle TVs devoted to a specific product display to show video that illustrates how Listerine Agent CoolBlue pre-brushing rinse turns plaque blue. Listerine saw it as an opportunity to educate the shopper. "When you see that bottle on the shelf, you're not really aware of what it does," Daly says. "This product really needs an explanation."

• Viacom's Nickelodeon. The kids network created video to promote Saturday's Kids' Choice Awards. Wal-Mart, a show sponsor, provided the TV time, set up related in-store displays and is selling exclusive Kids' Choice Awards products, such as CDs, says Leigh Anne Brodsky, Nickelodeon consumer products president.

• Unilever's Dove. The beauty care maker also has created custom advertising tailored for Wal-Mart TV. One ad, a part of Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty, has Wal-Mart workers proudly talking about their body curves. Unilever has dramatically increased its use of Wal-Mart TV in the past few years, says Joe Cavaliere, Unilever's head of customer development.

While there was time when many in the industry speculated that Wal-Mart was using strong-arm tactics to coerce packaged goods manufacturers to advertise on their network, the general wisdom today is that with a more compelling network and more generally complacent viewing audiences, the digital signage network is a much better value, and a great opportunity to reach some otherwise unreachable consumers.

Of course, not everyone things the network is a good thing, as evidenced by this comment left at the USA Today site:
Does anyone else find this whole "Walmart TV" thing kind of creepy ? Of all of the annoying things that Walmart does,this is one of the worst. I am tired of being pitched to. I want to shop and not have this "Big Brother" screen up there telling me what I need.
As Wal-Mart, Target and others expand their use of in-store digital media systems, this concern will come up again. Likewise when they start getting serious about mobile marketing and try to beam content to shoppers' cell phones and PDAs. But for now, I'm encouraged by the risks and experiments that some marketers have been willing to run by taking advantage of the strengths of in-store digital signage. My hope is that as more marketers see what Wal-Mart and friends are doing, they might be willing to open up a little.

Other articles about Wal-Mart TV include:
Wal-Mart and Saatchi X to rethink the store experience
Wal-Mart: In-Store Media is the Most Important Channel
Is Wal-Mart's in-store TV network really more effective than TV?

Tags: Wal-Mart TV, PRN, digital signage, in-store TV

Friday, March 23, 2007

Calvin Klein launches new brand with interactive electronic billboards

Calvin Klein recently launched its new IN2U fragrance line in Toronto by buying time on a huge electronic billboard in Yonge-Dundas Square, right next to Canada's busiest mall, the EatonCentre (with its wacky Canadian spelling). According to this article at PR-Inside, The question "What are you in 2?" was displayed in 20-second ads during a two week teaser period before the fragrance was launched, and viewers were encouraged to text in a response that would be displayed live (or nearly-live) on the billboard.

No word on results, or even the total number of people who participated during the 2-week run, or whether CK plans to do this sort of thing again in the future.

I've seen or heard about at least a dozen buzz marketing campaigns that had people text a response to see it appear on a huge digital billboard (most often in Times Square), and while they make a cool demo and certainly attract the attention of the kinds of people that would like to see their name up in lights, I've always wondered about their efficacy (mostly because I have no idea how much it costs to rent screen times on those behemoths, but I imagine it can't be cheap).

Tags: electronic billboards, buzz marketing, interactive billboards, Calvin Klein

Thursday, March 22, 2007

India's in-store TV market heats up

While Europe and North America have hogged much of the at-retail media spotlight the past few years, we've still seen Australia, China and Japan make some noteworthy announcements from time to time. However, with it's billion-plus population and strong economic growth, India has been notably absent from the scene. Maybe it's the lack of infrastructure, government focus on only a few key cities, or the fact that less than 20% of retail activities are what you'd call "organized." But whatever the cause, India has been a sleeping giant in the retail media space, with some projects and trials going on, but no real, big news.

That makes this announcement by TAG Media more interesting, since an expansion to 200 sites or more puts them squarely in the big leagues. Granted TAG is a US-based operation, the rapid pace of retail expansion in India makes them a natural choice for all sorts of digital media. The press release notes:

TAG Media Network Inc. the first and largest national “In-Store Television Network” has extended TAG Media Network to Fabmall, Trinethra & Foodworld. This strategic partnership with the retail chains has developed Tag Media’s network to over 200 plus grocery stores, supermarkets, and hypermarkets nationwide with a footfall of over 6 million per month. Consumers visiting, Spencer's, Fabmall & Foodworld can now experience the pleasure of shopping before they buy plus the opportunity to fulfill desires instantly.
Marketing-speak aside, a footfall of 6 million viewers/month is compelling, though it's unclear how much economic influence those 6 million have. While there's no mention of goals or ROI planning in the press release, it does suggest that TAG hopes to deploy another 500 screens in the coming months, bringing the total to 1,000 by year's end (which works out to an average of 5 per location, but no word on whether some places have one and others 20).

Tags: digital signage, retail media, TAG Media

Monday, March 19, 2007 needs to renew their domain name

Either has up and gone out of business without so much as a goodbye, or else somebody over at the industry's favorite news site (aside from us, of course), has forgotten to renew their domain name. Since they use the exotic .tv TLD, as opposed to a regular .com, .net or, you can't use a good tool like Better Whois to query the owner. Instead, you have to rely on a much less informative Verisign tool that notes only the following:

Domain Name: AKA.TV
Registrar: ENOM, INC.
Whois Server:
Updated Date: 19-mar-2007
Creation Date: 18-mar-2004
Expiration Date: 18-mar-2008
Last update of whois database: Mon, 19 Mar 2007 08:01:19 EDT
They more than likely just forgot to renew their domain name (or had their registrar go out of business, which happens from time to time), so hopefully this should get resolved shortly.

Has anybody heard differently?

[2007-03-23 UPDATE]: Looks like the site's back up. Per Barnaby's comment below, it appears it was just a technical glitch.

IconNicholson debuts virtual mirrors at Bloomingdales

I just posted an article to the In-Store & Retail Media News blog about IconNicholson's interactive mirrors, which were debuted at the NRF and were being demonstrated at Bloomingdales in New York (according to this article from the New York Times). The NYT says:

[The] interactive mirror prototype was set up for three days in the Lepore department at Bloomingdale’s (the department store said it was interested to see customer response). Clients who were trying on Lepore items were invited to use their cellphones to call or text friends and ask them to log onto a Web site where they could see a live video feed of the outfits being tried on.

For those who did not want to contact friends, a few Lepore employees and friends were logged on to send instant messages on the styles (“Did you know that green is the new black?”) and suggest other items that might work (“Try this jacket with your dress”).

Since it's also kiosk and digital signage related, I felt the cross-post appropriate. Note to anybody thinking of getting into corporate/business blogging: don't use Blogger. It's a fine tool for personal blogs, but lacks important features like categories that forces you to maintain multiple blogs, which can get a bit inconvenient at times like this :)

Friday, March 16, 2007

More digital signs are using sound, says Pro AV Magazine

Pro AV Magazine, as its name implies, tends to focus on the nuts-and-bolts aspects of all sorts of high-tech projects, and digital signage has been no exception. In a recent article, John McKeon took a look at the use of audio in digital signage projects, primarily from the angle of the common problems that arise from many audio installations, and the solutions that people have come up with to solve them. For example, audio fatigue, one of the most commonly cited problems with in-store audio, can obviously be remedied with very long audio loops that don't repeat. But for the technically minded, one could also install highly directional sound via hypersonic speakers or sound bells, which can allow audio to be delivered to specific locations without constantly annoying the staff.

As one might expect, much of the article features insights on speaker types and placements, and comments from various industry experts about different ways to solve the audio conundrum. Mixed into it, though, was this quote from Kari Mettala, CEO of the Finnish loudspeaker company Panphonics:

"Right now we are on the verge of a boom concerning audio in digital signage networks.

"The driving force is content. Content is king. It’s expensive to produce, and advertisers would like to use the same content as they use in other electronic media.”

One result, says Mettala, is a call for "all aspects of the content to be on the same level, meaning you need to have a TV-like experience in the grocery store, including the sound."
While I agree that content is the most important element of a digital signage network, that's very different from saying that merely reproducing an existing medium like TV in the retail environment is going to produce good results. In fact, if there's anything that we know at this point, it's that using TV-oriented content at retail for the purpose of advertising is not going to work very well. Re-use branding elements. Re-purpose existing messages and premises. But don't pull a spot from your TV lineup, run it in a store, and expect it to do anything. A shopper's modus operandi at retail is very, very different than at home, so expecting her awareness state and media consumption habits to be the same in both places is a major mistake.

I'm sure that Mettala was simply trying to drive home the point that a multi-media experience utilizing both sight and sound can have a pronounced effect on the impact of a digital signage system, the "re-use old assets" mantra is still common in our industry, and needs to be approached with an understanding of the differences between in-home and out-of-home advertising media.

Tags: digital signage, out-of-home advertising, retail marketing

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Focus Media to buy Allyes AdNetwork

Focus Media Holding Ltd., China's largest out-of-home advertising company, said it will buy Internet advertising company Allyes AdNetwork for up to $300 million, to expand its presence in China's blisteringly hot online advertising market, according to this article in the Hollywood Reporter (of all places).

I'm one of those people who watches Focus Media very closely, and when they do anything interesting something compels me to examine it very closely. While they still move a huge amount of content via a sneakerNet of low-wage workers swapping out DVDs and solid state flash drives, it's no secret that they're starting to deploy remotely-managed systems to new locations, so there's that to keep an eye on. We've also seen them acquire numerous smaller competitors and try their hand at non-digital outdoor advertising. But this most recent acquisition is one of the most interesting to me.

While the obvious benefit is an immediate entrance into Internet advertising and a sudden increase in revenues, Focus may have (knowingly or not) put themselves in a position to increase the performance and penetration of their out-of-home ad service in a few years. I've been wondering for some months now whether Google's acquisition of YouTube is the beginning of a killer app for digital signage displays, especially since it looks like they've been trying to patent certain elements common to many digital signage networks. With its acquisition, Focus Media has essentially purchased the Google-like bits and pieces that could allow it to run its own massive real-world auction-based advertising system. While the synergies aren't quite as great as they could be for a hypothetical Google-like service (since Google could work with many networks without necessarily having to pay for their deployment or maintenance), Allyes gives Focus the ability to gain immediate revenues and marketshare in Internet -- where they haven't really been spending much time to date -- with an eye on improving their existing out-of-home network in the future.

Tags: Focus Media, Allyes, digital signage, out-of-home advertising

Friday, March 09, 2007

Pre-film ads more acceptable than TV ads?

It seems counterintuitive to me, but according to a recent study conducted by Arbitron, frequent moviegoers indicated that they preferred pre-film ads at the theater to regular television commercials. This paragraph from a Mediaweek writeup sums it up nicely:

Frequent moviegoers find commercials that air prior to movies more acceptable than ads on television, according to a new study from Arbitron. More than half of frequent moviegoers (those who attended more than five movies in the past three months), or 53 percent, find advertising before the movie acceptable compared to 46 percent who found TV ads more acceptable.
One wonders if infrequent moviegoers feel differently. I could see an argument for either case (or maybe Arbitron knows but isn't telling; I haven't read the report). On the one hand, infrequent moviegoers might look at it more like a special treat, and could therefore be less tolerant of commercial interruptions during their indulgent period. On the other hand, I would think that frequent moviegoers would be more annoyed, since they're the ones who would be exposed to the most commercials.

News like this bodes well for companies like the newly-public National Cinemedia, and the in-theater advertising market is growing at an extremely fast clip right now. In 2005, the Cinema Advertising Council noted that on-screen advertising in movie theaters grew 21.1%, to $452.6 million. While still chump change compared to the budget for TV ads (which, by comparison, was $74 billion last year), it's one of the fastest growing advertising segments right now, and may have implications for other forms of out-of-home marketing.

Tags: out-of-home adverising, movie commercials, theater advertising

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

AdSpace says in-mall digital signage works

AdSpace has issued a release featuring the conclusions from several months of research revolving around their digital signage installations in 45 malls across the US. While the link on their site doesn't appear to work yet, Brandweek has a good summary featuring some of the findings. The study surveyed 400 people 13 and above, only at the Westfield Trumbull Shopping Center in Trumbull, Conn. Key findings include:

  • 17% of women and 10% of the general mall population made a purchase based on sales items they saw promoted on the digital signage network during their trip to the mall.
  • 75% of women noticed the screen while 52% of women ages 18-54 look at it.
  • 36% of respondents recalled seeing an ad for Nintendo, while 23% recalled seeing an ad for Gold Toe socks.
  • An average of 56% of respondents said they were more likely to go to malls with the Adscreen Mall Network because of the screen content.
It would appear that the type of product doesn't seem to have a large impact on recall. Low-cost, impulse buy products like socks have a good recall rate, even though we very infrequently see outside advertisements for Gold Toe. Nintendo, on the other hand, had an appreciably higher recall rate, but they're a darling brand right now, with significant cross-media advertising campaigns and frequent mention in everything from the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal.

Also, we don't have a lot of information about the methodology used to actually determine whether somebody made a purchase solely as the result of seeing an ad, versus somebody who may have already been primed to purchase and was encouraged by the ad. Since the results came from only one mall, it's safe to say that cross-mall promotion split tests were out of the question, and the Brandweek article seems to indicate that intra-mall split tests weren't used either, with the researchers instead trusting shopper interviews for their information.

While I'm always happy to see companies publishing numbers, AdSpace's modus operandi is obviously to sell ads, so self-supplied metrics about the power of their network are always suspect. That's not to say that I think AdSpace is lying -- in fact, I think mall-based advertising can be quite powerful when used properly -- but without some additional context, and more importantly without properly executed controlled experiments to build real credibility into the metrics, I don't think outside companies can safely draw conclusions of any sort based on the supplied information.

Maybe next time :)

Tags: digital signage, mall advertising, out-of-home advertising, AdSpace