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Look Up for New Products in Aisle 5

As marketers seek to weave their messages ever more thoroughly into people's lives, in-store television advertising is gaining traction around the world.

Tesco PLC, Britain's biggest supermarket chain, is planning to install TV sets in 300 of its stores in the United Kingdom by the end of the year. In between news clips, recipe tips and beauty advice, the screens will show ads for products in the aisles. The effort comes on the heels of growing popularity of in-store TV in the U.S., where retailers including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. also have in-store TV that carries advertising.

In-store TV is becoming more sophisticated as advertisers get better at using it. Allison Harmon, marketing communications manager for Unilever hair care and deodorant business in the U.S., says Unilever has learned that it is best to customize ads just for in-store TV. A recent in-store ad for Unilever's Axe deodorant body spray, for instance, was actually set in a store: When a guy sprays on some Axe, women in the store run after him because they're so attracted to him. Unilever has advertised at Wal-Mart since 2000, when it ran two campaigns; in 2004, it plans at least seven Wal-Mart TV campaigns.

Premier Retail Networks, which runs in-store TV networks for about six major retailers in the U.S. including Wal-Mart, Best Buy Co. and Circuit City Stores Inc., has an estimated viewership of more than 185 million people per month, up more than 50% from 120 million in 2002, says Premier Retail Networks, of San Francisco. Premier Retail Networks operates in more than 5,800 stores, up from 5,350 stores in 2002, the company says.

In-store ads have to be particularly attention grabbing because people are there to shop, not watch TV, executives say. "The key is that no one really stands there," says Ms. Harmon. "You need to get their attention, otherwise they might not watch the whole 30 seconds as they're walking by."

Indeed, Mark Mitchell, executive vice president of ad sales for Premier Retail Networks, says ads that communicate specific information about a product or an offer work better than the more emotional, slice-of-life advertising that dominates regular television. "Shoppers are in the store to make purchases," he says. "Tell me specifically about a brand and what is it going to do for me."

There are several reasons why advertising on in-store TV is an increasingly attractive option. In-store TV ads are timely, reaching people right as they are about to make a purchase. Advertisers also can target shoppers looking for specific products by buying ad time in particular sections of the store: health and beauty, electronics or food, for instance.

What's more, as cable and satellite channels proliferate, it has become more difficult for advertisers to reach a mass audience on regular television. By contrast, a broad swath of people still shop at the supermarket and big chain stores.

"Advertisers have been looking at new ways to market products that are more effective," says Jeremy Male, the chief executive of the U.K. and Northern Europe for JC Decaux SA, the French outdoor advertising company that is selling the ad time for Tesco's TV system. "We believe we are going to be a truly accountable medium. When you put your ad in, you should be able to see sales shift.

Posted on aef.com: March 29, 2004


Erin White, The Wall Street Journal. March 23, 2004

Copyright © 2004 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.. All rights reserved.