Video Venue joins the line for gas-pump advertising

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Launching this week, Video Venue, a gas-pump video advertising network, debuts with ads from Breyer's, Gatorade, General Motors Corp., M&M/Mars, Toyota, Dr Pepper and Wonder Bread, as well as a "Don't drink and drive" spot from Anheuser-Busch.

Video Venue will install 10-inch, wireless, high-resolution screens in 300 Casey's General Stores in the next 90 days to complete its first network, adding 1,000 more by 2002. Casey's is the 10th-largest convenience store chain, with stores primarily in the Midwest.

The screens run 6-minute cycles of full-motion video and sound ads, sent via satellite to allow marketers to change ad messages or create regional or location-specific spots. "Toyota has us changing their ads every other week because they have different promotions," said CarolAnn Merritt, president of sales and marketing at Video Venue. "[The spots] can be city- or site-specific."

Video Venue, which is currently in negotiations to expand its network to other convenience-store chains, promises a daily audience of 210,000 for each 300-store network. This offers advertisers a cost-per-thousand of $7.60, what Video Venue claims is lower than the average advertising household CPM of $11 to $12 for a prime-time network TV spot. "The beauty of Video Venue is that it creates a whole new life for national advertisers' high-dollar productions that only run on limited time on TV," Ms. Merritt said.

M&M/Mars is using Video Venue to promote new products, like the Snickers Cruncher, as well as encourage consumers-who are increasingly paying at the pump and driving off-to visit the store. The advertised products will be available in the store. "It gives us the ability to have consumers look at a lot of our new items that they may not have seen via the TV or print advertising," said Mary Rakos, account manager at M&M/Mars. "People now are paying at the pump and just going. This is one more alternative to say, `Hey, I'm right here, I can go in the store."'

But Video Venue is not the first to advertise at the gas pump, as digital out-of-home media companies race to reach on-the-go consumers. Rivals include Billboard Video, which installs audio and video screens at fuel pumps; Next Generation Network's E*billboards, which deliver video-only news and ads at supermarket check-out lines, gas stations and newsstands; and Captivate Networks, which displays video content and marketing messages in elevators.

Alex Ben Block, senior consultant to Video Venue, thinks it has an advantage over in-store advertising screens that must contend with consumers with limited time. "At the gas pump it takes 4 to 6 minutes and [the consumer has] basically nothing to do. We think that that's a more captive audience and a better place to reach people."

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