Commercials Find A Home Away From Home

Who wants to watch commercials these days?

Since the advent of DVR technology and the (relatively more recent and still expanding) growth of streaming media services that put televised entertainment at consumers’ fingertips, allowing people to consume it on virtually any device of their choice and on their own time, the once-standard practice of putting up with television advertisements has increasingly become something of an endangered behavior.

While efforts have been made in the retail marketing space to make up for consumers’ growing disinclination (in concert with their increased capability to avoid them) towards TV ads by effectively moving the spots onto computers and mobile devices — where more and more consumers eyeballs are directed anyhow — being met with them on an alternate medium has, by and large, not made prospective buyers any more interested in the videos. Effectively, they’re regarded as not much other than the same interruption of what they were looking at, just on a different screen.

If they can’t get consumers interested in watching them on TV, and they can’t get consumers interested in watching them on their desktops, laptops or smartphones, is there no place left where brands can put their commercials and have them met with any kind of consumer engagement?

Turns out that, actually, there is a place for that.

While the average consumer doesn’t like to watch commercials in most environments, there’s something that he likes doing even less, and it is proving to be the sweet spot for brands to advertise in video format:

Wherever the consumer is standing in a checkout line.

Out-of-home (OOH) digital advertising seems to be having its moment in retail culture. And, as VentureBeat shares, a recent study from Millward Brown shows that the widely disliked necessity among customers of standing in long lines at stores happens to substantially increase their willingness to watch a video screen. Not the ones in their hands (or pockets or purses), mind you, but the ones that were fixtures in the physical retail locations where the study was conducted and used specifically to display digital video advertisements.

While 69 percent of respondents in the study cited waiting in long checkout lines as the aspect of shopping they hate most, nearly 86 percent indicated a potential interest in watching digital ads to pass that very time (specifically, 70.2 percent of consumers said they would watch the videos for sure, and another 15.7 percent were a “maybe”).

Why is the magic here, in a behavior that most consumers tend to avoid while at home — watching commercials — suddenly becoming something they’re into whenever they’re out in the world?

Sorry to disappoint any PYMNTS readers who are also big fans of the dark arts, but there is no magic; it’s actually science.

Intel’s Joe Jensen brought up this very phenomenon when he was talking to Karen Webster recently about the viability of IoT (Internet of Things) technology in the retail space: If a human being catches in his periphery a moving image (particularly in an environment when most everything else in his view is relatively stagnant), his natural inclination is to focus on it.

The respondents to the Millward Brown study proved out this behavior, with 78 percent of them stating that the screens showing the digital video advertising caught their attention.

And, by a large majority, these people weren’t just instinctively responding to a moving image and then looking away again. On the contrary, 85 percent of them described the screens as “entertaining” and “pleasant to watch.”

Is the deck somewhat stacked here in retail brands’ favor, given that they’re essentially competing for consumer attention with the back of another person’s head? Perhaps. But so what?

Any consumer who is standing in a long checkout line is doing so by choice, because he or she has a specific goal to reach at the front of it: making a purchase.

Therein lies the second potential benefit for retail brands in utilizing OOH video advertising at stores. Not only do companies have the opportunity to give consumers a little bit of entertainment, and perhaps some information, that helps to make an otherwise boring activity (to use the term very loosely) a little more pleasant, more to the point of business, retailers that take proper advantage of checkout line-adjacent, in-store digital screens by filling them with engaging content are putting themselves in prime position to gain more sales — not, at some point down the line, as is the goal of traditional television commercials but right then and there.

Consumers who are in line waiting to buy something want something to look at. That they’re both in a buying mood and a watching mood arguably creates the perfect confluence for retailers to give them something to watch. That also ideally contains, at the core of its message, something for them to buy.

If handled properly, everybody in that situation might just get what they want.


Latest Insights: 

Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. The July 2019 Pay Advances: The Gig Economy’s New Normal, a PYMNTS and Mastercard collaboration, examines pay advances – full or partial payments received before an ad hoc job is completed – including how gig workers currently use them and their potential for future adoption.

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