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On advertising: Getting ‘em at the point of sale

On advertising: Getting ‘em at the point of sale

By Eric Pfanner International Herald Tribune
 
The chief executive of Procter & Gamble, A.G. Lafley, calls it "the first moment of truth." It's when a consumer steps up to the store shelf and chooses between Persil and Ariel, between Coke and Pepsi.
Experts say that for some types of consumer goods, as many as three-quarters of buying decisions are not made until that moment.

As a result, retailers and advertising agencies alike are devoting increased attention to so-called point-of-purchase marketing — the displays, product demonstrations, contests and other tactics used to court consumers as they step out for some retail therapy or just stock up on the weekly groceries.

Saatchi & Saatchi, part of Publicis Groupe, said last week that it would create a division, which it is calling X, to hone its in-store capabilities. Its clients include Wal-Mart Stores, which has been an aggressive user of point-of-sale strategies. Wal-Mart has its own "television network," which appears on screens in many U.S. stores, offering advertisements, product information and promotions. Similar initiatives are spreading to Europe, alongside a few more futuristic approaches.

Tesco, a leading British grocer, will install giant television screens in 300 of its more than 1,800 British stores by the end of the year in partnership with J.C. Decaux, the Paris-based company that operates billboards and other forms of outdoor and "ambient" advertising sites. The TV sets beam ads for consumer products along with health tips, recipes and the like to shoppers as they stroll through the supermarkets. Tesco tests showed that sales of products advertised on Tesco TV rose by 10 percent. Other retailers are taking notice. Spar, an Amsterdam-based organization of independent grocers, has run tests of in-store television in Britain and Ireland, and a trial is scheduled for this summer in Germany, a spokeswoman said.

While both Spar and Tesco reported strong sales gains for the brands being promoted — without, they contend, any negative effect on competing products — analysts say the novelty of in-store television could wear off among consumers, eroding its effectiveness over time. Or, if it is used too widely, it could turn off consumers already exposed to ever-greater amounts of marketing "clutter."

Both Spar and Tesco say they are taking pains to avoid alienating shoppers. Spar's tests involved small screens and low sound volumes. Tesco, meanwhile, is removing many of the cardboard displays, flyers and other promotional information scattered around stores — presumably to sell more time on the TVs. "The retailers are saying to suppliers, 'Instead of spending money on television, spend money with us,"' said Tony Regan, a founding partner of Nylon, a media strategy agency in London that is owned by WPP Group.

At the German retailer Metro's "future store" near Düsseldorf, IBM said last week it would soon test the Everywhere Display, which can project marketing images and information onto any store surface.
Using a camera, mirrors, software and other technology, the device can respond if a consumer "touches" the projected image, providing further information about a product — the availability of sizes of clothing in stock, for instance, or the tannin level of a wine."It's a light technology," said Alain Benichou, the IBM distribution sector vice president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. "You want to please the customer and you want him to buy more."Indeed, the goal is to get consumers to reach Lafley's second moment of truth for marketers: when they actually open the box and use a product.