Automakers gear up localized advertising on gas pump TVs

Gas Station TV is attracting automakers that create advertisements custom-designed to the Birmingham company’s pump-side screen network and location-focused approach

Fiat has gone further than any car brand, unveiling Monday an ad made only for Gas Station TV’s pump-top screens at nearly 1,900 service stations across the country. The ad for the 2013 Fiat 500 features a character who appears to be abiding in the gas pump just so he can get a peek at the 40-mpg vehicle.

The ad by the Italian automaker is running only in California, where gasoline ranges up to $5 a gallon, and where about 25 percent of Fiat dealerships are located.

“We’re looking to expand that (geographically) down the line,” said Casey Hurbis, head of Fiat brand communications.

“We like to do fun, innovative, breakthrough creative, and this provided a unique venue,” Hurbis said. The GSTV ad “certainly provides a captive audience” while drivers fill their cars. “I’m a little surprised that more advertisers haven’t used this space already to create contextually relevant marketing.”

GSTV CEO David Leider differentiated between Fiat’s “environmentally relevant” ad and previous and ongoing “contextually relevant” ads that other automakers, and advertisers from other industries have run on GSTV.

“Others have done mileage messages, but Fiat took the environment and did something special — took it to the next level,” Leider said.

The ad depicts a man who apparently has taken up residence inside the gas pump. He peers out of a slot in the pump, like it’s the door of a speakeasy. He enthuses about the 500’s gas mileage and bemoans that he hasn’t seen one. Then he decides to try to get out of the pump. Created in partnership with the Doner of Detroit marketing agency, the spot, titled “Deer Blind,” ends by listing the three Fiat dealers closest to the location of the pump.

“Understanding the dynamics of how viewers interact with screens at the pump was key in ensuring that we helped Fiat create an experience that was contextually informative and entertaining,” said Kerrin Kramer, vice president and brand leader at Doner.

The GSTV ad, Hurbis added, fits with Fiat’s wide-open approach to re-establishing its brand in the U.S. market by selling and marketing several versions of the 500. Fiat made an unexpected TV ad appearance during the last Super Bowl and has pledged to buy a spot in the Feb. 3 game.

Leider said GSTV has more than 37 million monthly viewers, keeping it ahead of rival Outcast, which claims more than 28 million monthly viewers on its Fuel Network. The Santa Monica, Calif.-based Outcast also claims another 41 million “Nielsen-audited” viewers monthly on its Fitness Network at health clubs.

Choice Hotels is another advertiser that has taken advantage of what Leider calls “hyper-local marketing.” The group of five national hotel brands highlighted in its GSTV ads includes the logos only of its chains that have locations near a particular gas station.