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TelevisionWeek is teaming up with TV industry veteran Marianne Paskowski. The blog will give Marianne a forum to convey her deep knowledge of the industry and pass along some of the juicy morsels she's hearing on the grapevine. Marianne has covered the TV industry from the inside out and top to bottom, and TVWeek's readers are bound to benefit from her sharp eyes, ears and wit. TVWeek.com invites readers to jump online, chime in and pick Marianne's brain on the latest industry news.

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Marianne Paskowski



TV at the Gas Pump Fuels Purchases

July 22, 2008 10:55 AM

According to an Associated Press article today, 89% of the consumers who are exposed to some 20,000 TV screens at gas stations across the country say they are willing to buy the products being hawked.

PumpTop TV, Gas Station TV and FuelCast are three independent outfits that provide programming ranging from NBC and ABC content to sports scores, news and weather forecasts. Gas stations rent the screens and, in turn, hawk products ranging from car washes to candy bars.

Clearly I’m out of sync with the public here. I would rather see gas stations lower the price of gas than rent TV sets that carry heavy rotations of 15-second spots. Buying gas is already an expensive, unpleasant chore. Who needs to be captive to a bunch of commercials, when you can’t even change the channel or sound level?

And what if the jerk ahead of you gets mesmerized by some numb-nuts sports report? I can hear the horns blowing already as time spent at the station is actually lengthened.

So has anyone out there been to one of the gas stations with TVs?

Feel free to rant, or tell me that I’m a lone voice in this choir.

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Comments (22)

Joan Fried:

Hi Marianne,
Maybe this is the only way gas stations can keep the price down right now. I have read that gas stations often do not make enough on a gallon of gas to cover the credit card fees. So if the advertising is giving them a better margin, that seems ok to me. I would definitely worry about the guy who got so engrossed in the ads that they did not move on. That one would need serious help.

Marianne Paskowski:

Joan,

I couldn't disagree more with you. Gas stations are paying for the rentals of the TV sets and more producing the ads.

Sure the research (Nielsen) says that 89 percent of people who view these ads say they are "willing" to buy the advertised product. But do they actually buy?

With so many gas buyers using credit cards, and not going into the convenience store, this supposedly works to get them in and buy a box of Milk Duds, or whatever.

Profit margins at supermarkets and convenience stores are extremely thin, and I don't see this ploy as anything more than to sell a few more beef jerkies or Twinkies.

Thanks for your post, an interesting point of view as always, and I respect that.

Marianne

Arthur Greenwald:

The company mentioned in your blog is the exception. TV's at gas pumps are commonplace here in LA but the gas stations are paid by the companies which install them.

As for being out of touch, sorry Marianne but this time you sure are!

According to the Open Mobile Video Association, by 2010, "out of home" live mobile TV viewing of broadcast TV (at gas stations, supermarkets, and especially on cell phones and hand-held devices) will generate 2.1 BILLION dollars annually in new ad revenue.

Honestly, Marianne, don't you read my stuff in TVNEWSDAY ???

Best as ever,

Arthur

Marianne Paskowski:

Arthur,
I mentioned three companies. The same three companies that the AP article said they all pay rental fees.Who are you talking about?

Arthur, tell me if you know, do the gas stations that have TV sets charge higher or lower at the pump prices than those that don't?

Yes, I read your stuff on TVNEWSDAY, but ever since the site was redesigned, I find it a little difficult to respond to your great commentary.

As to the topic of out of home advertising, I pay no attention to it, but I do know it is growing.

Furthermore, if I ever get an ad on my cell phone, total invasion of privacy, I will report the miscreant to the FCC. So there.

Again, thanks for your thoughtful response, and this time, as usual we shall agree to disagree.

M

Cruiser:

Yo, Blondie --

My local gas stations haven't added the TV screens yet, probably because they realize the blatant commercialism in the face of gas station highway robbery would have the assembled customers cheering for the next armed robber who demands money from the guy sitting behind the bullet-proof kiosk window.

Instead, I get similar foolishness from my local supermarket. While I'm on a checkout line enjoying the diversion of a snippet of Jay Leno monologue, the clerk is charging me $20 for the purposely mispriced scanned can of peas.

At the supermarket or the gas station, I'd like decent service at fair prices. Not some idiotic TV that seems to assume that I'm stupid enough to watch those on-screen ads while the proprietor gouges me on price.

Cruisin not bruisin

Marianne Paskowski:

Well, Well, Cruiser,

This is a rare moment, we agree.

And let me reiterate, the three independent companies that rent out TV sets to gas stations make the money. Not the gas stations or consumers.

Unless Arthur, who claims he knows otherwise, can prove that, I stick with this story.I cannot believe the average consumer going to these stations saves a dime, but will die of diabetes from buying Twinkies on sale.

And I really wonder how long this will last, given that gas station owners, who are paying for the TV's and advertising can possibly shore up the profit margins on a box of Milk Duds.I remain a skeptic.

Just me,
M

Jeff Mulligan:

Marianne,

Relax. The gas stations get some revenue for hosting the TV screens. Whether they pass the extra revenue, which isn't much, I imagine, along as consumer savings, is doubtful. But surely, they are not raising gas prices because of the commercial show.

Maybe the commercials lull us into complacency? Maybe the "jerk ahead of you gets mesmerized by some numb-nuts sports report?" Maybe the TV messages contain subliminal messages about how the high price of gas helps Americans praise the Wahabi Saudis who brought us 9/11?

Wow! If only the Bushies had this medium at their disposal in 2000 and 2004, they wouldn't have had to steal the Florida 2000 or Ohio 2004 elections!

Jeff

Marianne Paskowski:

Jeff,

First of all, you have no idea that the gas stations get any revenue from these TV sets.

AP says they do not. They, the gas stations, pay to rent the TV sets, not to mention whatever it costs to create ads for Milk Duds, car washes, or whatever.

Don't you think that cost is being passed on? I do.

Nor have you said boo about the gas prices with TV sets, compared to those that don't.

I sincerely think you are in denial if you think the Bushies could use this new form of advertising as a medium, to further promote their failing energy policies.

Thanks, I think for your post,
M

Marianne Paskowski:

One more thought, disclosure, my editors changed my original headline, "Feel Good TV at the Gas Pump."

I didn't make a stink. Apparently they have no sense of humor:}

Marianne,

After reading this post I drove to the Shell station at the intersection of Jamboree and San Joaquin Hills Roads in Newport Beach, a mile from my house. It has these TV's, whereas the Chevron station across the street from it does not. Interestingly, gas prices were identical between the two stations. ($4.45/gal Regular; $4.55/gal Plus; and $4.65/gal Supreme) So your theory that consumers are paying more at the pump for these TV's doesn't appear to be true.

As for the programming: once I started pumping gas, the TV turned on. First up was a pod of NBC promos, first for Jay Leno, then a local KNBC weather report, then a promo for NBC's The Office, and finally a sign-off from "NBC at the Pump." After that there was a commercial for Shell, and then one for Chevrolet's fuel efficient cars. After that the tape returned to the Leno spot and repeated the line-up, so it's on a loop.

Nothing advertised drew me into the convenience store for a purchase...no ads for soda, chips, or donuts.

The service was provided by FuelCast. I found it neither offensive nor intrusive. It's just one more place marketers have converted into a media vehicle. It's a sign of the times. Note to self: get used to it.

Cory

PS: The most revealing thing about this conversation is that your editor writes your headlines.

Really?

For a blog?

Marianne Paskowski:

Correction: I got this backwards, the vendors of the TV sets pay the gas stations. Apologies to all for my error.

Marketing, promotion, promotion, marketing, marketing, promotion...and on and on...I think they have brought out my every emotion over time and now I laugh at what comes out.

I am quite numb to it and tune most of it out. So much of it is a din, like ringing in the ears.

This is why I meditate, take long bike rides in open spaces and just cool out.

There are exceptional pieces that really connect and cross the moat. I have made some myself and what I find is that those that work are based on truth, inner, real vibrations, are brief and to the point. A true example of "Less is more".

Too much is formatted crap and we are innundated on the full 360 degree horizon of our lives.

Hype and BS has always been here, we just have more ways to spred it. I am entertained by the vision of all the "Busy Beavers" scurrying about with their latest "Bright Ideas". Most of it is reminiscent of the old Barkers, most of whom were not origianl about their barking and usually had nothing to bark about in the first place.

True, good ideas, like cream, will rise to the top. If it's crap, it will be eliminated.

So, screens above the gas pump? Time will tell. I don't have the energy to bother with them. I pump the liquid gold into my tank as quickly as possible so that I can leave and add it's residue to our atmosphere.
Peter Bright

Arthur Greenwald:

Marianne,

Thanks to Cory for posting the detailed answer to the question you asked me. I'm out of town so wasn't able to check my local station which also features KNBC news features and NBC lineup promos.

One more observation -- it doesn't much matter what you and I think about TV's at gas pumps. Ultimately it's today's 20 somethings and younger who will determine the viability and usefulness of all this mobile media.

I'm attending the ALWAYS ON conference at Stanford -- venture capitalists analyzing the tech sector with heavy focus on new media -- and despite the economy there's study after study indicating that mobile video and advertising will be very very big.

Time will tell.

Arthur

Marianne Paskowski:

Out of home advertising is popular, even Walmart, I hear has its own network of TV screens barking at customers throughout its stores.

Where is Lady Bird Johnson when you need her? Remember part of her beautification of America plan was to limit large advertising billboards on interstate highways.

I remember Lady Bird. Back in the 60's, AVCO Broadcasting, a multiple broadcast TV & Radio company owned WOAI-AM-FM-TV, San Antonio. She particularly wanted the large, clear channel fifty thousand watt AM'r. As a group broadcast owner, stations in Texas in particular, she gave AVCO all kinds of Hell by manipulations of the FCC from her place at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

She was shrewd and rude. From all accounts, she could de-capitate, or worse, while wearing her famous grin across a conference table.

SIDE BAR: During the same mystical period, she and Lyndon owned Trans Texas Airlines, which, what a coincidence, was the only airline that served the emense Fort Polk Army Base in Louisiana, the principle Vietnam training center in the sixties.

Marianne Paskowski:

Peter,

Say what you will about Lady Bird but her husband is credited for his work in civil rights, something most people forget or never knew.

And thanks for your stories about her, I didn't know how manipulative she was while first lady.

So back to this TV at the pump stuff. You're right, I am over-reacting. What does it matter to me.?

go to a station with competitive prices, and it's not self serve. And get this, they check the oil and clean the windows.

And I don't live in New Jersey, where you can't pump your own gas, the best thing about the state.

So Peter, I'm thinking about two blogs and I want your opinion. The vine says NBC is courting Luke Russert to cover the elections. The other is about Jay Leno leaving his perch. Either of interest to you?

Always feel free to tell me what's on your mind, and I'll see if I can come up to the plate with a conversation generating blog.

This blog was a dud.

Best,
Marianne

Dear Marianne,

While you call this blog a dud, it generated more comments than any other post of yours during the last 40 days, including the Spitzer call girl post. I wouldn't call this a dud. As usual, you gave me something to think about.

Cory

Arthur Greenwald:

Marianne,

Regarding billboards, I think we should give Ogden Nash the last word in his famous reply to Joyce Killmer's "Trees."

I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree
Indeed, unless the billboards fall
I'll never see a tree at all.


Arthur

I read your recent post and wanted to offer some insight into why televisions at pumps are so well received.

At Fuelcast, our highest priority is making consumers’ time at the pump entertaining and relevant. Customers spend idle minutes at the pump so we want to deliver programming that is fun, informative and engaging for them while they are there. We have an exclusive partnership with NBC, so our programming includes content that we all know and love. We also provide weather updates delivered by local meteorologists.


Our mission is to bring value to consumers by offering an entertaining experience in an otherwise bleak situation (soaring gas prices), and we hope we have done just that.


Best regards,

John McLean
CEO
Fuelcast

Marianne Paskowski:

Hi John,
Thanks for your post, and as you can see from the responses, I am indeed the lone voice in this choir:}

I guess you're right, there's not much to do at the gas pump except feel your blood pressure go up. You can't even talk on your cell phone or have a smoke, if that is your inclination.

Now, if you're for real, and I have no reason to suspect you are not, get CNBC on those TV screens, so everyone call watch their 401K's go down as gas prices rise.

Thanks,
Marianne

Andy S.:

"And I don't live in New Jersey, where you can't pump your own gas, the best thing about the state."

I do live in New Jersey, and I've always lamented the lack of self-service. I can't count the number of minutes I waste waiting for the attendant to complete the sale, long after the tank has been filled. But after reading this business about TV screens at the pump, I've changed my mind. Long live gas station attendants and TV-less gas pumps!

Marianne Paskowski:

Andy,
You're my kind of guy, I don't pump gas, I don't check my oil and I'm in love with the guy who cleans my windows.

Good to hear from you again,
M

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