For consumers already feeling abused at the pump, there will not be the additional pain of political advertising on gas-station screens this election season. Despite claims from the Barack Obama campaign earlier today that one of the candidate's energy-policy ads would be running on Gas Station TV, the company says that just isn't so.
According to Gas Station TV CEO David Leider, the company had been having discussions with the campaign, but no insertion order had ever been placed and today was the first the company had seen of the ad. "At no time did we ever approve the campaign," he says. Further, adds Leider, GSTV, the nation's largest network of pump-side screens (5,500 screens in more than 400 cities), has made a conscious decision not to accept any political advertising.
The reasons have less to do with politics and more to do with political ad clutter. "We're providing our traditional clients a non-cluttered environment," he said. "It's just best for our consumers and our advertisers to stay out of politics." Indeed, some of the company's ad clients had been asking if their messages would be crowded out of the market by political ads this election season -- as could happen in numerous markets throughout the country as presidential and congressional ads start to take over much of the ad time at local TV affiliates.
GSTV reaches about 17.5 million consumers each month who are practically sitting ducks for advertising. There they are, pumping gas, with nothing to do (except cry over the money being siphoned out of their checking accounts). As Leider likes to say, "They're tied to the screen with an 8-foot rubber hose." Talk about a captive audience.
With energy policy perhaps the hottest issue of the campaign season, I thought it would be genius for Obama and John McCain to start advertising in the medium. What better place to accuse your opponent of being the primary cause for high gas prices? I guess I wasn't the only one. According to Leider, "We had a number of campaigns approach us."
It isn't hard to imagine how that could get out of hand quickly. Leider says the value proposition GSTV offers clients is a clutter-free environment. Consumers are treated to a bit of news or entertainment content from CBS, then a 15-second or 30-second commercial, then perhaps sports from ESPN or weather from AccuWeather, then another :15 or :30. Spots don't run back-to-back. So with any number of candidates clamoring for access, it's not too hard to see how that four or five minutes at the pump would be completely eclipsed by poltical ads. And it's not too hard to see how current GSTV clients might be a little peeved if they're suddenly surrounded -- or worse, crowded out -- by the low-quality ranting of political ads.
The Obama campaign said it would release a clarification shortly ... shortly being a very flexible term with the Obama camp.
This is the ad that the Obama campaign was claiming would run on GSTV: