Capitalizing on a Captive Audience

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Capitalizing on a Captive Audience

By Tammy Mastroberte

The goal of every convenience store selling gasoline today is to get the pay-at-the-pump customer into the store. Pump-toppers, audio and video displays are popular advertising and marketing tools to accomplish this goal, but Gas Station TV (GSTV) seems to have taken these tools to the next level.

GSTV's Internet protocol (IP)-based network offers both local and national programming such as sports, news, weather and traffic via a partnership with ABC National Television Network. The programming is peppered with advertising, broadcast on a 20-inch television screen manufactured by Delphi Display Systems and embedded into fueling pumps by Gilbarco Veeder-Root. The programming schedule is designed to engage customers during their wait at the pump.

"We have approximately 1,000 screens at 90 locations in Dallas, Houston and Atlanta," said David Leider, CEO of Oak Park, Mich.-based GSTV, which is currently working with Murphy Oil Corp., El Dorado, Ark. oil company that operates about 1,000 Murphy Oil USA gas stations at Wal-Mart Supercenters in 21 southern and Midwestern states.

Leider described the content as a combination of national programming from ABC television as well as local news, weather, traffic and sports from ABC-owned and operated stations in the area. "People may watch some behind the scenes of Desperate Housewives, Lost or Extreme Makeover during the four-minute continuous play experience."

Retailers are being offered GSTV programming at no charge and are given three promotions to be displayed as well. "We work with them (the retailers) through their promotional calendar and with whatever products or services they want. We map it out with them and then execute it (the promotions)," explained Leider.

Since the networking running GSTV is IP-based, each gas station has its own IP address so that it received the appropriate targeted programming. This allows the content to vary per store as well as by time of day, said Leider, so if one station in Houston has a car wash, but another doesn't, they wouldn't get the car wash promotion.

GSTV controls all of the content from a network operations center at its headquarters in Michigan and worked with Gilbarco and Delphi on the design, which is UL approved.

"The 20-inch monitor is encased into color-coded steel that goes around the pump and ties into the color scheme of the retailer," said Leider. "So at Murphy Oil it is blue. Because pumps are all sizes, we can take the shroud and make it wider or smaller so it will look integrated."

Hank Heithaus, senior vice president of Murphy USA, said, "GSTV's compelling, visually-striking consumer entertainment gives Murphy USA something no other retailer has. The GSTV experience drives customer traffic to the pumps and increases merchandise sales, allowing retailers to generate an incremental bottom-line profit."

Putting it to the Test
To prove the content is engaging enough to capture and keep customers' attention, GSTV enlisted Nielsen Media Research to perform a study, conducted across 20, four-hour dayparts at five Murphy Oil pilot stations in the greater Dallas area. The study took place between July 31 and August 13, 2006.

"Our motivation was to use an accredited company to help us demonstrate that engagement is high," noted Leider.

The research, based on interviews after fueling with 418 adults, 18 years of age and older, showed 77 percent of respondents either looked at, watched, or listened to GSTV. Also, 89 percent said they intend to watch or listen at their next fueling visit to the station, the report found.

"This Nielsen report provides us tangible evidence that GSTV makes the fueling experience more enjoyable for our customers," said Bill Deichler, manager of special services at Murphy Oil USA. "For our stations, GSTV makes this possible by helping us showcase our retail products through customizable promotional video spots."

Furthermore, 84 percent of respondents agreed GSTV is a good source of product information and more than 75 percent agree GSTV is entertaining and makes pumping gas a better experience and gas stations more appealing, the report stated.

"This pilot certainly demonstrated that people will watch and value GSTV as they pump their gas," said Beth Corbett, vice president of Nielsen Media Research. "We look forward to expanding the scope of the research as GSTV rolls out to more stations and more markets."

GSTV is currently only in Atlanta, Dallas and Houston, but plans to roll out more than 7,000 screens across the top 15 markets in the U.S. by the end of 2007, the company stated.

"We have a number of national brand name content providers interested in working with us, so we may extend beyond ABC in the future, but not with any direct competitors," said Leider.