Is GSTV Running On Empty?

Dylan Jones, Jones Digital Media

Could it be that Gas Station TV’s journey is spluttering already? Especially with earlier this week’s decision by BP to award a multi-year contract to Retail Media Company (RMC) out of Los Angeles – RMC plan to build out a network of screens in a thousand or more BP and Arco branded gas stations in addition to placing screens in the attached convenience stores.

Here’s some fuel for debate:

Let’s look at the evidence as I did last week when I visited a local Arco station in Northern California for my weekly fill-up.

At first things look good for GSTV, the screen is large and set atop the gas pump for easy viewing, but as soon as the programming loop kicks in, my heart sinks faster than the fuel gauge on a Hummer.

Immediately I get the impression that the current set-up is yet another example of someone with a genius idea of putting up screens but as clueless as a Toyota Prius in a NASCAR race as how to program them.

There’s a great opportunity here for the Retail Media Company to shift this programming into high gear and actually create something that engages the viewer.

For what it’s worth, here are a few fundamental changes I’d introduce immediately…

  • Audio: It’s hard to hear in the environment. Install some technology that breaks through the ambient noise and use less deep male voices; they sound muffled and incoherent.
  • Consumer Experience: Look carefully at what’s going on. How are they interacting with the screen? Do they stand back as they’re watching or lean in for a closer look? This is going to determine your programming strategy.
  • Clean Executions: The space is cluttered enough without burgers and slurpees flying over images of pizzas and ice cream. Keeping it simple is going to win you fans and sales.
  • Text: Use it! Don’t rely on sound alone to deliver your message.
  • On-screen host or not?  I’m on the fence about on-screen hosted approaches in general; they can work, but need to be very well written, have great casting, and above all, be relevant.

In speaking with Adam Bleibtreu at Retail Media Company (Adam was President and Co-Founder of GSTV until he left in March 2007, Ed) he told me that the RMC screens will be interactive, providing the customer with a choice of programming.  

This is a plus, in my opinion: the less content you force-feed to a consumer the better. And how’s this for a smart move? They’re also planning a Spanish language version of the programming in highly Hispanic skewing neighborhoods – targeted and relevant; how’s that for a concept?

From the four minutes or so it took to fill up my car, I had the distinct impression the current GSTV is running on fumes and I’m excited to see a company with the content and creative pedigree of Retail Media Company now in the driver’s seat.  

And, before we completely exhaust the automotive analogies; Question “Are we there yet?” Answer “No, but with Retail Media Company at the wheel we’re a few, freeway miles closer”

3 Responses to “Is GSTV Running On Empty?”

  1. Alan Klein Says:

    Research we have conducted to measure engagement and interaction with gas station TV screens suggests there is potential to stimulate customers to go inside the station shop and buy a coke or a snack. Immediacy of response seems to be key.

  2. Ralph Dauria Says:

    Hi Alan,
    Didnt know where you wound up after PRN until I met w/Dylan last week and we were comparing notes regarding who we had in common at PRN and in the industry.
    Hope you are well. As you know being the last call I made on the last day I was at TruMedia, I left them in May 08. I dont think they have done any major business in the US in any event. Not sure if they ever got past test status w/PRN either.

    I have been working with Adam and the team at Retail Media Co for the last year, its been, and as of the PR on Monday, even more excting to be involved. Dylans blog entry is a result of my intro meeting w/him about 2 weeks ago. I took him to the closest Arco station to view GSTV’s content. I knew he wouldnt be impressed.
    I would like to talk with you and get access to the research you refer to in your response to blog about GSTV running on empty.
    Im at:
    c. 415 260 3989

  3. Greg Brennan Says:

    We developed an on-site promotional kiosk for Easy Fill, Kaiser Permanente’s mail order pharmacy. The kiosks were located in KP pharmacy’s in California. The two biggest concerns: the need for multiple languages, from English to Tagalog; and the likelihood that a soundtrack would be so annoying the staff that they’d disable the system or at least not call for support if a problem arose. We created multiple, simple scenarios that illustrated the benefits of Easy Fill – with a music soundtrack only. And we bolstered the sales messages with graphics in several languages. The project was a huge success. Of course, we didn’t have to compete with sales messages about burgers and Slurpees, but all the elements described by Dylan above were met – and so were the client’s goals.

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