GSTV gets knocked for pump-top ads

Published on: 2015-02-05

The WSJ's Brian Carney says:

Pumping gas has been a painful experience for everyone recently, but the oil companies have now come up with a new form of torment. In addition to shelling out more than $60 for a tank of gas, we now have to endure Gas Station TV -- or "GSTV" for short.

I do not know when GSTV first intruded itself into American life, but I made its acquaintance on a recent evening returning home from New York City. As the pump ticked inexorably through $20, $30, $40, $50, I became conscious of a screen on top of the pump displaying advertisements in full color, with sound. The particular commercial I saw was, sadistically enough, for some car that supposedly gets such good mileage that gas pumps engage in various acts of sabotage when these fuel-sippers pull into the station. "Gas pumps hate us" is the tag line.

"Well, I hate gas pumps," I thought as I filled the capacious tank of my seven-seat, V-6-sporting, low-mileage minivan. "But I hate watching TV at the gas station more." Oil companies, take note: If you are worried about your public image, do not run GSTV ads that are designed to call attention to how expensive it has become to visit your place of business.

Our take:

It's hard to tell whether Carney hates GSTV in particular because of this lack of targeted (or sympathetic) advertising, or whether he suspects it's just a symptom of a larger condition of advertising overload. Admittedly we've never heard of anybody suggesting that they love gas pump digital signage -- or any other kind of out-of-home advertising, for that matter -- but in general OOH ads are not only well tolerated by the majority of the viewing public, but they're acknowledged more favorably and have higher recall rates than most other forms of ads.

While this shouldn't give GSTV and others carte blance to make crappy ads -- quite the contrary if they hope for good returns for the network -- it does illustrate how non-traditional advertising might catch more flack than, say, a TV commercial or an Internet ad, simply because viewers have become accustomed to mediocrity in these more established formats.

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