The Digital Signage Insider

P&G's Store Back: Why DOOH Will Be Critical to Campaign Planning

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This month's Shopper Marketing magazine features an interesting article on a P&G program dubbed "Store Back," which encourages the firm's plethora of media agencies to consider the retail environment when coming up with marketing campaigns. Noting that big media ideas dished up by highfalutin traditional agencies don't always translate well into store-level fixtures and media, Store Back dictates that the in-store executions get considered first. If they work well at-retail, they can be converted for use with other communication channels and media. If not, the brand won't suffer from having an otherwise great above-the-line campaign that can't effectively be applied in-store, at the First Moment of Truth. If Store Back and other similar programs do indeed take off with agencies, they may represent the best chance the digital signage industry has encountered to involve above-the-line media agencies in digital out-of-home campaigns. Plus, the Store Back approach might pave the way for content and campaigns that work better and are more tightly integrated with traditional media.

How does Store Back work?

According to P&G's Phil Duncan, the program encourages brand teams and agencies to "start with the store in mind as they evaluate their big ideas, because what we have found is we actually develop better big ideas if we think about the store first and work our way back." Working on the premise that "if it doesn't work in the store, it doesn't work," P&G's own internal brand managers are working with the agencies that represent them to refine the way product campaigns are created. As Andy Murray from Saatchi & Saatchi X notes, "you still start with the idea." But that idea gets tested, either literally or figuratively at the store level, before being considered for a wider rollout on the Internet, mobile, print and TV. Consequently, ideas that can't be properly demonstrated in the retail environment may get left behind, while those that excel in the selling space will be given a more prominent role in mainstream media and marketing channels.

And this is good for DOOH?

Image credit: Robert Couse-Baker
You bet, and for a few reasons. Those mainstream media agencies aren't going to "get" marketing at-retail any time soon, so their impulse will still be to go with what they know. More often than not, that means TV. Since the most similar in-store medium to TV is digital signage, we'll be seen as the "low-hanging fruit" in their quest to transition to a Store Back-like mentality. From a content and execution standpoint, we'll see plenty of mistakes in the short run. But these will be mistakes that the agencies can learn from at their own pace, without us having to harangue them (which I think just encourages them to ignore us more).

Additionally, as the agencies become more adept at this kind of work, in-store digital media will become a natural part of their repertoire -- again, without us having to wring our hands and explain how great DOOH really is. With first-hand experience and at the demand of major marketers like P&G, they'll be forced to experiment and adapt, or else potentially lose business in their bread-and-butter business areas like TV commercials. Let's face it: big media agencies aren't going to bother with our fickle little networks unless there's a big reason (read: $$$) to do so. P&G and other store-centric brands have deep pockets. They've also shown a willingness to both try out new things in-store and push their agencies around to get them done. Initiatives like Store Back thus offer a compelling reason for big agencies to look at digital signage right now -- maybe even on the customer's dime.

Can we speed things along?

I doubt it. Don't get me wrong -- I'd love to help push agencies in the right direction. But if P&G is only just starting this program and other marketers haven't even embraced it yet, there's little hope that our ragtag band of misfits has any hope of changing things. And the very sparse attendance of agencies at events like DSE's Content Day indicates that they're not (yet) really interested in the educational expertise and advice that we have to offer. Expect this to change as Store Back and similar programs become the norm (if they do), but it seems unlikely that we can do anything to hurry this along.

Wait, so we can't do anything?

Well, I've come to the conclusion that it's a waste of time to go after the Madison Avenue clan. If they have a client that wants or needs to do some digital signage work, they'll call us. But trying to push them into more complex, less lucrative digital signage work from the bottom up seems implausible right now.

Where we can make some potential headway is with digital agencies who are already doing digital out-of-home-esque things. Twitter, Foursquare, social networks and viral video are being adopted as legitimate techniques by large, respectable digital agencies working for large, respectable clients. The unique properties and capabilities of digital signs offer a lot of synergistic opportunities with those channels. If you're planning to lobby an agency, I'd focus on one of these guys first. You'll at least be speaking (approximately) the same language.

P&G's earlier work on the "First Moment of Truth" added much-needed legitimacy to the marketing at-retail argument. Do you think Store Back will have the same effect? Will it be more or less important? Leave a comment below and let us know.

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