Coming to a pump near you

What is this world coming to?

Whatever it is, it’s likely coming to a TV screen near you.

A bank of monitors at the gym or the airport already is no big deal. Same goes for multiple plasma screens above the bar.

But the latest location may surprise many: your neighborhood gas station.

It sure surprised me the other day, when I pulled into a Holiday station in Plymouth. I selected the $2.79 grade of gas, inserted the nozzle and turned to mourn the passing of each escalating digit.

Then came the voice from out of the blue: “Thank you for visiting Holiday Station…”

There, blaring from a 17-inch LCD monitor above the pumps, came a parade of commercials. First, a gas station commercial. Next, a promo for an ABC sitcom, followed by a bank logo and twirling graphics touting interest-free checking. Then, two local TV news anchors gave me the news and sports headlines.

A new way to ease our pain at the pump. Just install a monitor to entertain us during the five mundane minutes it takes to fill our tanks and drain our wallets.

Eyeball competition
After recently testing the waters at a few pilot stations, Holiday is rolling out its “Fuelcasts” at 50 Twin Cities area stations.

“We’re looking to differentiate the customer experience and set Holiday stations apart from our competitors,” says Julie Yttreness, Holiday’s marketing project manager.

Has the competition for eyeballs come to this?

Within the past year, at least three companies — Fuelcast, PumpMedia and Pump Top TV — have launched efforts to compete for face time while we fill up.

Another company, Michigan-based Gas Station TV, or GSTV — targets motorist with 4-1/2-minute videos of entertainment, news and advertising. Gas Station TV has a reported 2,500 screens at 250 stations around the nation, with plans for 20,000 screens in the top 25 media markets in the next two years.

“GSTV is focused on creating the kind of engaging environment marketers are craving,” says Gas Station TV CEO David Leider. According to the company’s website, the digital-video innovation has become a major hit with advertisers, especially given the commercial-skipping, TiVo-happy viewer habits that have increasingly hindered conventional television advertising.

Constants in life
I tried to share my discovery with my 14-year-old son, who was sitting on the passenger side: “Look! Look at that! A TV monitor at a gas station.”

He pulled out an iPod ear bud and leaned over, nonplussed, to see what all the fuss was about. After a few seconds, he replied: “What’s the big deal Mom? It’s just a bunch of commercials.”

Kinda missing the point there, son.

But then again, maybe not, when you consider that kids today view electronic screens the same way some of my friends view a sale at the mall: just one of the constants in life.

His middle school just installed a plasma screen … in the cafeteria.

And if there aren’t enough screens to go around, heck, bring your own.

My son’s personal arsenal of PDMPs — portable digital media players — is a lot like those of his peers: a Mac laptop computer, a cell phone, an iPod, a Play Station Portable and a Game Boy Advance SP.

Five tiny screens, none of which existed when I was 14.

Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Sean Brown on 11/13/2007 - 04:48 am.

    Southern California gas stations have had those tiny screens with horrible audio for at least the last 4 years. For good or for ill, perhaps the Twin Cities is catching up with the corporate wonderland that is Southern California.

  2. Submitted by Susan Peterson on 11/13/2007 - 10:40 am.

    I’m a regular Holiday customer, but these annoying commercials are sending me to
    SuperAmerica — probably not the desired “differentiation” Holiday is looking for.

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