Archive for October 2006

More on the Wal-Mart Canada plan

October 27, 2006

The Globe and Mail has a piece today on the news of ShopCast deploying into Wal-Marts, and a little more detail on what’s going to be done and what some big-time ad media people think of it.

One thing it also confirms is that Marnie Boucher is still involved, having spent at least five years grinding away at this deal. Major kudos for hanging in there, Marnie.

The Globe reports:

Each store will have 15 to 20 screens at the checkouts and in high-traffic sections such as fashion, groceries and electronics. The monitors at the checkouts will be smaller — 32 inches — and carry more in-depth information. That’s because shoppers will be standing still at the checkout, while they tend to just glance at the screen when they’re browsing the store.

Commercials will be 10 to 15 seconds each, shorter than the 15- to 30-second spots on conventional television, he said.

Hugh Dow, president of media buyer M2 Universal, said that it represents an opportunity for advertisers to connect with consumers, although it won’t necessarily be a replacement to conventional TV. “Clearly Wal-Mart has the customer base to make this something that has some critical mass.”

Doug Checkeris, president of Media Company, added that advertisers may shift spending to the screens from other in-store marketing programs, such as displays or flyers. But he cautioned that not all Wal-Mart shoppers will look at the ads on the screens. “Do I think this is a slam dunk? Not necessarily. I think it’s a very powerful opportunity. But it takes time to define how it will be used and how it will fit into the mix. That will be the challenge.”

Shopcast finally, finally bags Wal-mart Canada

October 26, 2006

I remember meeting five years ago with a very stressed woman who was clutching a letter of intent to install digital signage screens in Wal-mart Canada. She was trying to pull it all together, pretty much on her own, under the name Shopcast.

Five years on, and a whole bunch of changes later, Shopcast has itself a deal to roll out screens.

Reports Media in Canada:

On Nov. 8, the already gigantic general merchandise chain is introducing three Supercentre stores – in London, Ancaster and Stouffville, Ont. – and plans to unveil four more in the new year, also in Ontario (Sarnia, Scarborough, Vaughan and Brampton). Measuring between 156,000 to 186,000 square feet, they will house an expanded selection of apparel, electronics, home décor and grocery including, for the first time, fresh products, baked goods and meat.

And the new in-store network that is part and parcel of the new stores is a medium that other advertisers can eventually tap into, according to Mario Pilozzi, president and CEO of Wal-Mart Canada. “We do believe the best means of communications is in-store because you [can] communicate directly with your customer,” he says. It will roll out nationally throughout 2007 and ultimately the plan is to be chain-wide.

The new network involves the installation of LCD screens in high-traffic areas, as well as at cash registers, where consumers will learn about universal store initiatives, as well as get targeted information that is relevant to specific departments and local needs. For instance, communications about Wal-Mart’s everyday low prices, rollbacks, gift cards and other programs will be broadcast nationwide, whereas details about community fundraising events and customized product selection will be advertised on a local basis.

Supported by Toronto-based “narrowcasting” company ShopCast, Wal-Mart ShopCast TV has been four years in development and is modeled in part on a similar network broadcast that launched nine years ago in Wal-Mart stores south of the border. The Mississauga, Ont.-HQ’ed retailer has high hopes for its ability to grab the attention of Canadian shoppers at the first moment of truth.

Initially ShopCast will be operating only a checkout channel at the Supercentre cash desks, with a full-scale rollout planned for Jan. 24 involving 10 Ontario stores and nine individually-programmed channels keyed to departments, such as fashion, pantry, pharma, health and beauty, electronics, etc. It is with the January expansion that ShopCast is offering national advertisers access to buy into the first year of the network (Jan. to Sept.), and to participate in roll-out research. Ultimately, there will be the opportunity to buy by demo or daypart and to geo-target. The checkout channel will have a cost per thousand somewhere between $4-5, and within the store, channels will be priced on a per store, per cycle basis (in two-week cycles). Wal-Mart traffic clocks in at one million shoppers per day.

Certainly, the findings of a comprehensive pilot of the program in Meadowvale, Barrie, Brampton, Oakville, and Etobicoke, Ont. (five stores were compared against five other control stores) look promising. Conducted by Muldoon and Co. in conjunction with Starch Research, the results of 1,000 surveys and multiple focus groups suggest that customers are getting the messages loud and clear. In fact, 57% said it “reminded them of products available at Wal-Mart,” and 35% said it “informed them of products they did not know Wal-Mart carried.”

And the additional sounds and sights didn’t seem to bother shoppers either: 90% said Wal-Mart was creating a “more pleasant shopping experience” and 81% said it is “a great addition to the store.”

Since 2001, Shopcast has gone through several incarnations, managers and partners (including Hitachi, with whom they did a short trial). PRN has looked at Canada and even chatted with PRN, but took a pass, given they had enough on the plate in US.

I have no idea who has the technology side of this deal, but like most people I have spoken with whoever was in charge of Shopcast at the time.

It’s a big deal if this announcement has substance, and will certainly influence a lot of big name tire kicking retailers in the Canuck market.

It’s a start …

October 25, 2006

The Canadian Digital Signage Association has released a list of those companies that stepped up and cut a cheque to get more formally involved.

There are just 11, and four of those companies involve founders. So it would be a reach to describe the response as wildly enthusiastic. But ya gotta start somewhere. Kudos to a couple of those firms, for whom a membership would be a big budget hit, from what I know.

Reports the CDSA:

Going forward, the new CDSA organizing committee will consist of representatives from the following committed companies:

  • Approved Media Corporation
  • Capital Networks Limited
  • Captivate Network
  • Cinema Stage Inc.
  • Fourth Wall Media
  • Gel Communications
  • Globalive Communications Inc.
  • ONESTOP Media Group
  • PHSN
  • POP Media
  • Wise Broadcasting Network

The next meeting is scheduled for Monday November 20th.
Lacation: 266 King Street West – S300
Time: 5:30 PM – 7:00 PM

I enjoyed the closing line of the e-mail:

For any who intended to ‘commit’ but missed the deadline, you can simply join us on the 20th. Please bring along your application form and cheque. 

Panasonic shipping 103 inch monster panel

October 25, 2006

The gadget blog Gizmodo reports Panasonic is planning to start shipping in November a 103 inch plasma display. At $70,000, it’s just the right stocking stuffer for an arms dealer’s Christmas.

It would certainly get noticed in a store, as long as its weight didn’t pull the roof down.

Chicago McDonald’s heavies up on signage

October 24, 2006

Self Service World posted a piece about a south side Chicago McDonald’s manager who has, apparently without corporate involvement, gone at a signage installation in a big way.

The story describes eight tiled screens across the menu board area, using sync’d content that runs across all the monitors, as well as large screens in the sitting areas that can have content changed using SMS text messaging. There’s also a kiosk in the kids’ playzone.

“It’s very difficult for me to measure return on investment,” said the manager. “But it’s very easy for me to go to five stores within 10 minutes of here, and customers there talk about this. 

Swiss firm Neo Advertising lighting up in Carrefour

October 19, 2006

carrefour-live.JPG

The guys who run the Swiss firm Neo Advertising appear to be on a roll.

They just issued a press release announcing a rollout to 12 of the massive Carrefour Switzerland hypermarkets in their country, with as many as 400 46 inch LCDs to be installed aroundthe stores. The rollout is targeted to be done by end of Q1 2007.
By the looks of the images one of their directors included with the press release, they have the screens ganged together and down low enough that shoppers will actually notice them amid the visual kaleidoscope that is a typical big box grocer.

Neo says of the plan:

“Developed to inform and entertain the Carrefour customers, the programs astutely combine
daily promotional offers, commercials, entertainment and other educational programs relating to the family and their consumption habits.”

I like the dominant screens and full screen spots. One image shows what appears to be a news headline (why people would read news in a grocery, I’ll never know), but at least everything appears to be full-screen.

PRN’s Wal-Mart network retooling and expanding

October 18, 2006

MediaWeek is reporting that Wal-Mart has OK’d a complete overhaul of Premier Retail Network‘s massive, and long-running, in-store media network.
The key elements:

  • target content by aisles, and right down to the end-caps
  • go IPTV instead of multi-cast satellite
  • dump the TV monitors and go flat screen, down at eye-level instead of way high

“The store is our number one media channel,” Wal-Mart CMO John Fleming told the assembled group (at a Bentonville marketing summitt. “The network of the future will allow us to take full advantage of it.”

The rollout will be phased in over 2007 and completed by early 2008.

The decision to proceed with the revamp followed a 20-store test this summer (dubbed Project Mustang) where 10 stores used the new targeted IPTV ads to promote certain products and 10 stores used the existing network. Product sales in the IPTV-equipped stores were at least 10 percent higher, said Michael Quinn, svp, marketing and research at PRN.

For Pfizer, which tested a new pre-brush oral rinse, the sales results using the new ad model were close to double the 10-store control group, said Kaki Hinton, vp, advertising, Pfizer Consumer Health Care. “The fact that your executions will air only in the aisle where your product is sold makes all the sense in the world,” she said. “It’s relevant, targeted and eliminates waste.”

Wal-Mart also disclosed several other changes to the more than 400 marketers and media buyers gathered to hear the company discuss its upcoming in-store promotion initiatives. In-store monitors are being replaced with flat-screen panels, which will be at eye level in aisles and other key locations, instead of hanging several feet overhead. Testing shows that awareness levels for ads are “significantly higher” when screens are at eye level, said Mike Hiatt, director of internal media networks at Wal-Mart.

I’ve walked around a Wal-Mart with a PRN exec and know they have been angling towards this for quite some time. It makes a world of sense, as they have been using a network and technology that really wasn’t taking much advantage of what’s now possible.

To bankroll what will be a rather big capital budget, CPM rates will go up and more ads will be squeezed into the rotation. Media Week says ad sales revenues for PRN/Wal-Mart are estimated at $100 million annually.