There’s a new player in the U.S. upfront market, and its name is Wal-Mart. Thanks to a partnership with New York-based Premier Retail Networks, Wal-Mart TV has become a functioning in-store network complete with programming and advertising that aims to bring the in-home experience to the retail aisle.
In 1999, Wal-Mart enlisted PRN to create a two-hour loop of content for the bank of televisions on display in its electronics department. The network has since evolved to include about 14 hanging monitors per store, featuring four or five different channels that offer department-specific programming throughout the location. For example, cablenet Discovery Health has repurposed its TV content for the retailer by making one- or two-minute clips about fighting the flu or allergies for use in pharmacy departments. And right now, approximately 300 stores are testing LCD screens loaded with advertising and recipe tips from Scripps’ Food Network in their checkout areas.
Mark Mitchell, executive VP of national sales at PRN, says Wal-Mart TV runs like a typical cablenet with programming primarily provided by existing television networks that’s accompanied by ads from a slew of Blue Chip clients such as Hasbro and Mattel. Content gets updated on a weekly basis and is fed to the outlets via satellite.
PRN commissions Nielsen Media Research to study the audience size and demos and the ad team uses the same CPM model employed by traditional TV networks. The cost of Wal-Mart TV’s advertising and programming packages are on par with those of primetime cable, ranging anywhere between US$30,000 and US$300,000 depending on the total number of customers reached over a four-week period. ‘We reach about a third of the 100-million people going through Wal-Mart stores per week,’ Mitchell says. And given that kind of volume, the rates are higher than those charged for a similar service offered at PRN’s other U.S. retail clients such as Costco and Sam’s Club.
Recent research conducted by New York’s TNS Media and Entertainment Group shows consumers are not only watching the in-store net, but are also acting on the advertising they see. A recent survey of shoppers in 20 outlets found 15% of viewers intended to pick up the products advertised on Wal-Mart TV that same trip, and a full 85% planned on buying the advertised items in the future.
The TV network has yet to land in kid-targeted stores, but let’s not forget Wal-Mart is the nation’s largest toy seller. For advertisers, this is a real opportunity to speak and connect with mom as she’s standing in Wal-Mart with her kids. Mitchell points to the campaign for the DVD release of Disney and Pixar’s Monsters Inc. in 2003. The toon’s characters hijacked the entire network, hosting the programming and ads while making quite an in-store splash.
There are also opportunities to adapt the content to suit local environments. For example, stores with strong Hispanic demos provide programming and advertising in Spanish. Similarly, individual stores can use the network to promote regional events.
At the moment, PRN provides this service only to retailers in the States, but the company was acquired in the summer of 2005 by French media giant, Thompson. So there’s a possibility that PRN’s in-store network concept will roll out internationally, hitting shops in Europe and even China in the coming months.