Catching the Eye
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.
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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).