Wednesday, January 09, 2008

More retailers discover the benefits of in-store TV

Promo magazine has put together a piece that focuses on a handful of retailers and their experience with in-store TV. According to the article, "About 630,000 TV screens are now housed in 97,000 U.S. retail stores, estimates PowerPact, a consumer marketing agency. That number is projected to grow by 20% a year."

Obviously, this is good news. But even more interesting is the fact that "hipper" stores like Borders (whose in-store TV developments we wrote about in early December), Ecko Unltd and Limited Too are following in the steps of Wal-Mart, who already has 120,000 screens according to Promo. It's even more reassuring that these retailers are working to develop unique content for the in-store TV's instead of just settling for glorified versions of late-night infomercials.

According to the article, "Ecko Unltd teamed up with Channel M to launch 'ecko TV' last October. It uses short-form content -- everything from sports and shout-outs from celebrities -- to 'stop people in their tracks,' says Eric Hebel, president and COO of Channel M."

This is exactly the kind of approach that all companies should take when developing in-store TV project plans: make it eye-catching and entertaining above all else. If a customer stops to watch a video because they are genuinely interested in its content, there's a better chance of the content's message being imparted (rather than if the customer is aware that they are shamelessly being sold a product and decide not to even glance at the screens).

The article also gives lip service to a critic of this kind of advertising: "'It is an intrusion,' says Susan Linn, the group's co-founder. 'This is part of a targeted device by corporations to get brands in our face 24 hours, seven days a week. It may benefit marketers, but it doesn't do the rest of us a lot of good.'"

I don't buy this argument. After all, we are talking about in-store advertising here, so I don't know how that aims to keep "brands in our face 24 hours, seven days a week." Nobody is ever forced to walk into a store. The only time I'd be exposed to in-store TV from Wal-Mart or Borders is if I make the conscious decision to give them my time.

Once a customer is in a store, should it not be the goal of any retailer to enforce their brand and make a sale while they have our attention? Moreover, isn't it better for all of us (customers and retailers) if the store projects an attractive and possibly even entertaining atmosphere? If in-store TV can accomplish both tasks, then why should retailers back off of it? It seems to me like Ms. Linn has a beef with advertising in general and merely looks at this as an illustration of the increasing pervasion of ads.

On the off-chance that you're not familiar with in-store TV networks (which is the subject of one of our other blogs, Digital Signage News), I recommend you check out WireSpring's digital signage primer, and specifically the section on Retail TV.

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