strategy+business is published by PwC Strategy& LLC.
or, sign in with:
strategy and business
 / Winter 2008 /Issue 53(originally published by Booz & Company)


Major Media in the Shopping Aisle

Catching the Eye
by Mark French

The number one challenge for many digital networks in retail environments is getting people to look at the screens so that they will engage with the advertisement. At NBC Universal, we think that’s our piece of the puzzle: Can we produce relevant content and then put the appropriate advertiser in that context?

The key is that the content can’t be repurposed from television. It must be tailored to its purpose and specific to its setting, which may be any of the locations where we have what we call place-based media — fitness centers, sports arenas, subways, and, of course, retail stores. For obvious reasons, the content can’t be a 30-minute sitcom, and the ads can’t be 30-second spots. In many areas of the store, you won’t hold a consumer’s attention for more than 10 seconds, so the message in those areas needs to be customized to the length of time the consumer will watch.

For advertisers, the advantage is that they can begin to think of ways all their marketing messages can re­inforce one another and can benefit from being associated with NBC’s popular content. Think, for example, of the natural relationship between NBC’s The Biggest Loser and a brand of low-fat salad dressing. Ten years ago, the dressing’s manufacturer might have just bought a spot during the broadcast. Now, however, the company can also target a customer via the media network at his gym, and create a spot with a Biggest Loser contestant telling the consumer that when he is finished on the treadmill, he can do something else good for his health and purchase the low-fat dressing. At the store, the same consumer might see a different piece of content featuring The Biggest Loser — one that includes a recipe incorporating the salad dressing. Because it taps into the consumer’s activities and makes the brand part of his interaction with his environment, it is a branding experience that’s unique to place-based media.

Retailers, too, benefit from an in-store media network that mixes content with advertising. When TV screens are placed at the checkout counter, retailers find that customers think they spend less time waiting in line than they actually do. Carefully placed advertising can also lead to increases in sales; for instance, through the Out­cast Network, Fuelcast screens are embedded into gas pumps, showing NBC content mixed with advertising messages when the consumer starts pumping fuel. Con­venience stores with Outcast have seen sizable increases in sales when items sold in the store — such as lottery tickets — are advertised at the pumps.

Finally, NBC’s approach can help get consumers into certain stores in the first place. “NBC in Transit,” a new initiative still in development, incorporates screens on the New York/New Jersey PATH transit system. Retailers like Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks, which have locations next to the train stations, can use that channel to target commuters who will soon be walking past their stores.

Eventually, consumers can expect a whole world of messages that are tailored precisely to the places in which they find themselves. These messages will be anchored by popular programming to catch their attention in a crowded media landscape.

Mark French is se­nior vice president and general man­ager of NBC Everywhere, a division of NBC Universal.

Reprint No. 08406

Author Profiles:

Matthew Egol is a partner in Booz & Company’s global consumer and media practice and is based in New York. He focuses on growth strategy and sales and marketing effectiveness for clients in the consumer products and media industries, including developing new in-store and relationship marketing capabilities.

Christopher Vollmer is a partner with Booz & Company in New York. He leads the firm’s North American media and entertainment practice, and focuses on strategy development and implementation for clients in those industries as well as in consumer goods. He is the author of Always On: Adver­tising, Marketing, and Media in an Era of Consumer Control (McGraw-Hill, 2008).
Follow Us 
Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google Plus YouTube RSS strategy+business Digital and Mobile products App Store



  1. Tom Ehrenfeld, “Starbucks and the Power of Story,” s+b, Summer 2008: Overview of books about the preeminent creator of retail experience — without (much) in-store media (yet).
  2. Rich Kauffeld, Johan Sauer, and Sara Bergson, “Partners at the Point of Sale,” s+b, Autumn 2007: Explains why shelf-centered collaboration between manufacturers and retailers can provide the behind-the-scenes infrastructure needed for in-store media to truly connect.
  3. A.G. Lafley and Ram Charan, The Game-Changer: How You Can Drive Revenue and Profit Growth with Innovation (Crown Business, 2008): Contains the P&G CEO’s description of two “moments of truth” for reaching consumers: at the shelf and during each use of the product.
  4. Leslie Moeller and Edward Landry, with Theodore Kinni, The Four Pillars of Profit-Driven Marketing: A Proven System for Maximizing Creativity, Profitability and ROI (forthcoming; McGraw-Hill, 2009): Detailed guide to practices and organizational processes needed to implement any form of marketing metrics, including those required for in-store marketing.
  5. Tom Ryan, “Walmart Introduces Smart Network,” RetailWire, Sept. 4, 2008: News article about the introduction of this IPTV network to 2,700 stores.
  6. Christopher Vollmer, with Geoffrey Precourt, Always On: Advertising, Marketing, and Media in an Era of Consumer Control (McGraw-Hill, 2008): The digital age has reshaped all marketing imperatives and the industry as well; compelling context that shows why the moment is right for in-store media.
  7. In-Store Marketing Institute Web site: Electronic home of the PRISM project for measuring the effectiveness of in-store media.
  8. For more articles on marketing and sales, sign up for s+b’s RSS feed.
Sign up to receive s+b newsletters and get a FREE Strategy eBook

You will initially receive up to two newsletters/week. You can unsubscribe from any newsletter by using the link found in each newsletter.