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Gas stations can fill up on interactive advertising

Oct 8, 2001  •  Post A Comment

As American audiences become increasingly fragmented and advertisers search for new ways to reach them, BillBoard Video believes it has found an untapped market of eyeballs at the gasoline pump.
The Frisco, Texas-based company plans to roll out its Wireless Media Network beginning this fall to gas stations around the country. The equipment allows for full-motion video, advertisements and interactivity at the pump. The company has deals to introduce the service to about 5,000 to 10,000 of the nation’s 185,000 gas stations in the next year, said William Hall, president and CEO of BillBoard Video.
The service will feature news updates from the Fox News Channel and sports updates from Fox Sports interlaced with advertisements. In addition, the network includes an interactive section on the screen that can be used to present information on in-store deals, coupons and special offers. The banner bars can be customized for each retailer to promote specific specials.
The pump is one of the few places where there is a captive audience for advertising, Mr. Hall said.
The average person spends 80 hours outside the home per week, with at least half of that devoted to work, he said. “Destination advertising is becoming critical. One of the few very good places you have to do that is the pump,” he said. The average person spends six minutes, from start to finish, fueling the tank, Mr. Hall said, and those six minutes represent an advertising opportunity.
Gas stations pay a monthly fee for the equipment. Advertising revenue is used to cover those payments, and any revenue above and beyond that is split between BillBoard Video and the gas station, Mr. Hall said. BillBoard Video handles selling the advertisements nationally.
This summer, the company tested the service in a few stations in Texas. Those early prototypes did not include interactivity. The new network includes an intranet for the gas stations, allowing communication with other stations and central offices for the exchange of such information as inventory lists and pricing changes. The service also includes a security camera installed at the pump that is designed to reduce drive-offs.
BillBoard Video has touched on an opportunity to reach consumers where they aren’t usually reached, said Alan Reiter, president of Chevy Chase, Md., consulting firm Wireless Internet and Mobile Computing. “Pumping gas is really boring. Unless you are cleaning your windows, there is not much to do. To a certain extent, that is a captive audience,” he said.
However, the ads need to be targeted, and the equipment must be easy to install and inexpensive. “To retrofit the pump for an unproven product might be too esoteric for an industry that isn’t very high-tech,” he said.
The gas pump is an advertising opportunity-but a niche one at best, said David Tolliver, senior VP with the Media Broadcast Group of Daniels & Associates, an investment banking firm that follows the out-of-home advertising market, among others. Static ads at the pump have met with mixed success to date, he said, and video advertisements could play well in a better economy. But chances are that most advertisers will play it safe with a mix of TV, radio and print ads in today’s tough economic climate, he said.#