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


Anonymous said...

Those damn TVs are one of the biggest reasons I avoid going in there. The whole damn store is loud and makes me very irritable. It's also hot and stuffy.

On the other hand, the Target has no paging system and no ambient music, and consequently I've found myself spending more time in there than I originally intended. I'll pay a couple extra cents for peace.

Mike Halloran said...

There's a TV network in Wal-Mart?

Oh. Yeah. I hadn't noticed it in six visits over the past week, maybe because I was wearing a hat. The displays are way above your normal line of sight, and not bright enough to contrast with the brightly lit ceiling, so they don't attract your eyes. I'm guessing they would attract your attention if you could hear them. I'm also guessing their audio was turned down in response to complaints.

The displays' placement within the store baffles me. To watch WMTV, you have to stand still in a high traffic area, face in a direction that opposes traffic, and look up toward the ceiling.

To hear the audio clearly, you have to stand under the box, where you can't see the content.

It doesn't matter. The content comprises talking heads with unexplained smiles and exaggerated gestures, with very simple text screens inserted, a voice reading the text very slowly and disingenuously, and unnecessarily complex and slow fades and dissolves. It couldn't hold my attention for more than a few seconds, and I was _trying _ to watch it. It was like the worst PowerPoint presentation you've ever seen. Okay, maybe you've seen worse; I haven't. It was way worse than the inane and insulting crap that they pipe into doctors' waiting rooms these days, except touting curling irons instead of medications.

The content is awful, but it doesn't matter, because the ergonomics of the installed display guarantee that the content won't be seen.