TV ads move from gas pumps to counters

Service stations are adding screens inside retail stores to grab more customers

From the makers of TVs at the fuel pump now comes a new line of convenience store-based TVs that seek to capitalize on the idle moments spent at the checkout line or coffee bar.

Gas Station TV, a media and advertising company based in Oak Park, has begun to expand its TV-at-the-pump concept to gas station stores planting television screens near the register, above beverage cases, beside the coffee pot, and anywhere else a consumer’s gaze may wander.

C-Store TV, the company behind the convenience store screens, is an offshoot of the newly formed Destination Media that’s now parent to Gas Station TV. The LCD screens show snippets of news, weather, sports and entertainment, interspersed with product advertisements.
C-Store began rolling out the in-store TVs in late July at 100 locations in Boston, New York and Los Angeles. It plans to begin bring the concept to Michigan in early 2009, said company’s CEO David Leider, a former Yahoo! executive.

The in-store TVs are intended to complement the television advertising already flickering at the pump, providing a continuum of marketing as consumers move from filling up their cars to paying for items at gas station counters.

“The idea is that we’ve got them to go in the store from the pump. The screens are a reinforcement of this message,” Leider said. The company, which was founded in 2006, now has about 5,500 TVs placed at pumps in 530 gas stations nationwide, each showing 4.5-minute television segments to motorists fueling up.

Including the C-Store screens, Destination Media figures it provides markets with about 20 million viewers a month. To be sure, Destination Media isn’t the only company trying to target consumers on the go. Fuelcast Network in Santa Monica, Calif. and Pump Top TV in Irvine, Calif. also sell TV advertising at fueling stations nationwide.

And with the advent of DVR and TIVO, which allows viewers to skip over commercials, companies are increasingly turning to alternative forms of screen-based advertising to deliver their marketing message outside the home.

The market for what is known as “out-of-home video advertising” is among one of the fast-growing segment of the advertising industry. The segment generated about $1.3 billion in revenues last year, said Suzanne Alecia, president of Out-of-home Video Advertising Bureau, a New York City-based trade association.

Compared with more traditional forms of advertising media such as radio, newspapers and online, video advertising still comprises a small part of the overall industry (about 1 percent) but its revenues are expected to reach $3.2 billion in 2011, according the trade group’s forecasts.

The reasons are twofold, Alecia said. More viewers are accessing media outside their homes, such as through mobile phone and wireless connections, making the target audience more fragmented for advertisers. And the technology for setting up TV screens outside has become much better through broadband Internet connections.

Placing TV ads directly in front of the gas station customer may also have the added benefit of triggering buyer impulses, said Richard Divine, chair of the marketing department at Central Michigan University.

Even today’s high fuel costs can be turned to advantage, Leider said. Companies looking to market environmentally friendly or energy-saving products may find an opportunity to market to consumers already grumbling about energy costs as they watch the gas pump ticker roll through the dollar amounts.

For instance, General Electric has begun to advertise its energy efficient bulbs through Gas Station TV, Leider said. “They’re in the mind-set,” he said. “This is where people are hinking about the environment, cost and energy savings.”