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Retailers looking for a competitive in-store advertising edge may find the satellite-delivered, customized music and promotion service by 3M just the ticket to increase store sales.

Dubbed the Message Memory Module, or MMM system, 3M offers chain grocery, convenience and mass merchandise stores the ability to update in-store audio advertising weekly on a store-by-store basis. The music and advertising programs are distributed to individual stores by direct broadcast satellite systems.

Although other direct satellite systems also distribute simultaneous in-store advertising, in most cases those messages must be identical, generic and sent to all stores within a chain. The ability of the 3M system to create store-specific messages via satellite is what sets it apart.

The Message Memory Module is unique because it relies on a solid-state microprocessor at each location to receive, store and play customized ads or service messages. Plus there are no tapes to record, mail or break, said Tom Pelissero, Sound Products music programming supervisor for 3M.

"We can customize messages to each store's personality or neighborhood," Mr. Pelissero said.

In-store advertising has shown it does influence purchasing decisions, 65% of which are made once in the store, 3M says. In-store media-including demonstrations, product sampling, coupons, shopping cart signs and checkout stand videos, audio and more-is about a $400 million business. Industry projections expect in-store marketing to top $1 billion by the end of the decade.

Retailers using the audio service have told 3M the advertising messages inserted regularly during music programming have increased sales as much as 150%. Retailers also have the option of reselling spots to prominent name-brand package goods companies like Procter & Gamble Co., General Mills and Kraft General Foods.

"It's one of the most cost-effective advertising programs we offer our suppliers," said Sal Saccoccio, advertising and sales promotion director for Stop & Shop Cos., the largest supermarket chain in New England.

Since the early 1960s, the music-advertising mix has been distributed to retailers primarily through audiotapes. 3M Sound Products, a unit of 3M Media, switched to the higher quality satellite system about a year ago.

This requires each store to have a 30-inch-wide roof-mounted satellite dish, direct broadcast satellite receiver and MMM. The 3M service offers four business services. Point-to-multipoint data transmission and business video training also are offered.

There are about 4,800 retail sites using the 3M system. The cost of the service, which includes eight music formats, ranges from $50 to $200 a month per location depending on the level of production and satellite services provided. 3M scripts and produces the commercials in-house, based on retailer approval for the spots, and regularly changes the music to prevent repetition burnout.

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