Retail Media introduces TV net for liquor stores

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A Fort Lauderdale, Fla., company is launching a TV network for liquor stores, a vehicle that will allow spirits marketers to run commercials, effectively bypassing their industry's voluntary ban and the rejections of national broadcast networks.

Within six weeks, Retail Media Systems hopes to have signed 500 liquor stores and retailers for Bevision, which will run how-to messages as well as TV spots from national advertisers, said Sam Am- brose, marketing VP for the company, also known as RMS Networks.

"It's like a CBS or Fox or NBC for [beverage] retailers," he said.

Bevision will run drink recipes, wine and liquor recommendations, and party-planning advice for 20 minutes every half-hour, with 10 minutes allotted for product ads, Mr. Ambrose said. Programming, updated weekly, will repeat every 2 hours and run for 10 hours a day.

"This takes it a step further than regular TV advertising [would]. We get to reach people at the point of purchase," Mr. Ambrose said.


Bevision would allow spirits executives, eager to promote their products on TV, access to video promotions. The industry has been eager to hit the airwaves since Seagram Americas broke the self-imposed ban on broadcast media in 1996. However, broadcasters have been reluctant to air TV ads.

"In the liquor business, you pour a tremendous amount of energy into strategic thinking -- positioning and creative. That has been limited to print and outdoor, so this will [provide] a new outlet," said John Frierson, president of Frierson Mee & Kraft, New York, whose clients include Schieffelin & Somerset, the importer of Johnnie Walker and other spirits brands.

RMS, which runs in-store programming for more than 2,000 retail establishments with its drugstore network Pharmaseetv as well as Advance Autoparts Network, will unveil Bevision at the Las Vegas Food & Beverage Convention & Trade Show this week.

Mr. Ambrose said the network would be coupled with, providing the video segments online.

He said national spirits marketers are waiting for RMS to sign up at least 300 stores before agreeing to advertise; RMS has contracts with 50 Florida liquor stores, which signed up shortly after the concept was introduced earlier this month.

Mr. Ambrose said retailers would pay $300 annually to receive the satellite dish and video feed. Ad rates have not been established, but they would be slightly higher than the $2 to $4 cost per thousand viewers that its pharmacy network charges.


One obstacle Bevision and other in-store TV systems face is that consumers often tune them out, said Tom Pirko, president of beverage consultancy Bevmark.

"People have their minds other places. They don't stop to watch it," he said. "They know it's an infomercial. [In the past, in-store advertising] has not proved to be that effective a medium."

Despite calls for legislation officially banning broadcast spirits ads, well-done commercials at retail establishments should not see a backlash, said John Burcham, executive director of the National Association of Beverage Retailers.

"When you think about liquor brands, there are a lot of subtleties in how you create an emotional connection," he said. "It gives us tremendous opportunities to use film to communicate a brand message that has always been absent in the liquor business."

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