Innovative media screens are becoming more prevalent on the tops of gasoline dispensers, offering an inviting atmosphere for consumers fueling their vehicles. Teeming with well-designed graphics, interesting content and engaging voiceovers, these media displays add a unique element to a rather mundane task. And best of all, these streamlined visual masterpieces stand out in the minds of targeted audiences and keep them coming back for more.
Pumped Up Technology
In today’s media-saturated world, people have come to expect visual and verbal stimulation throughout their day. Whether it is through satellite radio, Internet-accessible phones or television-strewn sports bars, consumers are surrounded by advertising messages and news programs aplenty. And petroleum marketers are following suit—installing media stations at the pump to entertain, inform and engage customers in their purchasing decisions.
According to David Leider, chief executive officer at Gas Station TV (GSTV), the largest provider of TV at the pump, Gas Station TV’s Gas Network entertains captive consumers for five minutes during a natural pause point in their day through 20-inch daylight viewable LCD screens that produce full-motion video and directional stereo sound. Gas Station TV is installed at over 525 stations in over 425 cities across the U.S. on 5,500 screens in 20 top designated market areas (DMA), including the top 12 in the nation, and is projected to grow to over 7,000 screens by year end.
Here’s how it works: Each gas station has an average of 10 screens installed, all of which are mounted on top of gas station pumps, where content and advertising is streamed via satellite from a central network operating center (NOC) via an IP-based television (IPTV) network. “This allows advertisers to target messaging to specific consumers based on location, station demographics and time of day,” said Leider.
EK3, a global multimedia company in London, Ontario, has created iX Media, a digital merchandising display specifically designed for the petroleum industry. Known as narrowcasting, the EK3 product and service mix allows for customized content management, publishing and reporting on digital merchandising networks.
Exclusive to Dresser Wayne dispensers, EK3’s iX Media also offers customizable content accessorized by coupon creation and targeted sales messages geared to a specific location, time, demographic and even weather patterns or seasons of the year. With the goal of capturing the customer’s attention at the pump and influencing their purchasing decisions, iX Media features a library of high-quality, customizable video promotions.
“Customizing fuel pump messaging is paramount to the success of digital merchandising displays,” said John McLean, chief executive officer at Fuelcast Network. Fuelcast also operates an innovative network that provides a broadcast experience in an out-of-home environment.
As McLean explained, Fuelcast’s program features 17-inch daylight viewable LCD screens and full-stereo sound, designed to engage and entertain motorists while they are fuelling their vehicles. The network programming provides a wide range of content such as news, movie trailers, trivia, sports and public service announcements.
“What is unique about Fuelcast is we have a system that is triggered through activation,” McLean said. “We are not just simply a media player that runs 24/7 series of commercials and content, whether there is someone there or not. The only time our loop of content plays is when someone lifts the nozzle, and it stops when they put it back down. “
Installing since late 2006, Fuelcast has partnered with a variety of petroleum partners and has an exclusive endorsement from Shell and Conoco Philips.
“Each marketer has the ability to make their own decisions on installations of media solutions in their forecourt,” McLean said. “We have worked closely with several of the major petroleum marketers to ensure we comply with their standards and that we have a safe media player that sits on top of a gas pump.”
GSTV’s Gas Network and C-Store Network bring an average of 20 million viewers per month to marketers who advertise their brands on the networks. “At a time when technology such as DVRs have enabled consumers to skip through commercials while watching traditional television, GSTV increases marketers’ ability to reach consumers and brings enhanced brand recognition,” Leider said. By year-end, the network is projected to grow to over 30 million viewers per month.
As demonstrated by several Nielsen studies conducted throughout the top media markets in the nation, an overwhelming number of viewers agree that GSTV is not only a good source of product information, but is also entertaining. In fact, in its most recent study, nearly 90 percent of survey respondents indicated that they watched or listened to GSTV while refueling their vehicle. “An overwhelming majority of survey respondents consistently indicated their likelihood to purchase the products featured on GSTV, with as much as 89 percent of consumers indicating their willingness to purchase a featured product after viewing the advertisement,” Leider said.
Recently Fuelcast compared the average daily c-store between a set of test and control sites for pre-install and post-install of the Fuelcast system.
“Two DMAs were selected for the tests,” McLean explained. “In each DMA there was a set of 10 test sites and two control sites. There were no other changes introduced to any of the test or control sites other than the Fuelcast system.”
The result? Within one DMA, the test sites with the Fuelcast system recorded an increase of 12 percent in c-store sales, while the control sites reported an increase of 8 percent, resulting in a net increase of 4 percent sales lift. For the second DMA, the test sites with the Fuelcast system recorded an increase of 14 percent in c-store sales, while control sites remained flat, resulting in a net increase of 14 percent sales lift.
In a separate study, Fuelcast measured the impact of coupon messaging at the pump. “One gas station with an installed Fuelcast system ran a 15-second ad promoting a selected automotive service for 30 days,” McLean explained. The location of the service was within a three-block radius and the location was identified in the ad. At the end of the ad the consumer was advised that a coupon was available in the c-store offering a $5 savings on the automotive service to be used within 30 days.
“Over 5,000 coupons were issued with a redemption rate of 4 percent, representing a $6,000 per month increase in sales for the promoted product at this one location,” McLean said.
The turnkey approach offered by Fuelcast allows petroleum retailers to incorporate this technology into their facilities with little or no investment costs. Fuelcast handles the content messaging, and retailers can add new revenue streams through increased c-store sales, more car washes and new advertising revenue.
“We generate the return on our investment by ad sales, so from a marketer’s perspective it requires little to no investment,” McLean said. “We are able to create a program that will enhance their c-store sales. We also will arrange for revenue sharing because we acknowledge we are using their real estate above the gas pump. In the major markets this gives marketers a chance to monetize space above the gas pump by allowing us to install our media players.”
Crossing the Threshold
The increasing availability of credit card-enabled gas pumps has significantly contributed to the decrease in c-store sales. But a recent study indicated that gas stations installed with the Gas Station TV Network experience significant product sales lift in their c-stores over non-Gas Station TV locations. Some examples include retailers who have experienced a 42 percent increase in windshield wiper fluid sales, a 69 percent increase in candy sales and a 78 percent increase in car wash sales.
As Leider explained, GSTV and C-Store TV reach consumers at a desirable point-of-purchase (POP), where they are mobile and can be influenced to take action at a nearby retailer in proximity, or furthermore, to drive engagement for brand marketers. “We offer a content experience through partnerships with preeminent content providers, including news and entertainment from CBS, sports from ESPN, local weather from AccuWeather and original programming, which is designed with the viewer in mind. The programming cycle runs at approximately 4.5 minutes, which matches the national average pump dwell time,” Leider said.
Fuelcast also uses a controlled activated system, which enhances the relationship with the advertisers themselves. “We tag all the content so we know what time the nozzle is lifted, and we record every piece of content and advertising that plays during that time per unit,” McLean said. “We gather that info every night and send it through our satellite system to our operations center to collate all the info from all sites. So if we have a major soft drink retailer that purchased ads on our network, we could go back to them and say your ad played 12 million times. That’s a very important aspect of success with both securing the advertising and getting advertisers to come back and make repeat purchases.”
Content Is Key
Experts agree that you need to structure your content so that it is the most meaningful to those whom you have identified as your key audience. Sure good design is a critical element in attracting the attention of your customers but remember, your content is your greatest lure—no tricks or gimmicks, just the goods. And because of time constraints—you only have about 3 to 4 minutes to capture the attention of fuel purchasers, strive for brevity with media screen content. Providing engaging info that entices consumers to venture into your interior environment is paramount.
You want to find unique ways of “infotaining” your customers to help your establishment enhance its brand memorability in consumers’ minds. For example, Gas Station TV actively engages consumers through a national American Idol-like campaign.
“The ‘Wanna be a BroadcaSTAR?’ contest conducted earlier this year was effective at raising awareness of the network through consumers,” Leider said. “This further demonstrates GSTV’s objective to provide a creative and effective way to augment existing marketing strategies and add actionable value to the consumer experience at the pump and beyond.”
And from the retailer/marketer standpoint, Fuelcast recognizes that the three-minute period that the customer is standing there is valued time and one where there is an opportunity to create messaging for the marketer. “That messaging is very important,” McLean said. “If they are properly engaged and entertained and you can capture their attention, then you have gained something by creating a better experience for them.”
With EK3 iX Media, fuel marketers and c-store retailers can customize their own content, which can engage specific demographics of customers and entice them to purchase car washes, upgrade their fuel purchases or try new products within the c-store itself.
What’s more, EK3 offers third-party data feeds including weather and news features and allows fuel marketers to manage each playlist individually.
So what happens when customers enter your store after being wooed by the dispenser media screens? Quite simply, the customers can experience similar media messaging on the store’s interior as well.
For example, GSTV’s Convenience Store Network (C-Store TV) complements its Gas Network at select gas station convenience stores throughout the country. C-Store TV is featured on 37” flat screen LG TVs, and broadcasts the same industry leading content as GSTV. “Messages are reinforced with this increased frequency, enabling marketers to create even deeper impact with on-the-go consumers,” Leider said. “In tandem, GSTV’s gas and c-store networks can transform the way marketers advertise with this forecourt/in-store combination, which creates a highly sought-after media destination to entertain, inform and influence consumers.”
When partnering with a media provider, industry experts recommend you hire an experienced company that is familiar with your company’s demographic audience and purchasing patterns.
No matter what, businesses should look for a firm with a proven track record, references from previous clients, a solid portfolio and a strong understanding of the entire media program development process.