PRN Walmart Announcement Arrives

Adrian J Cotterill, Editor-in-Chief

In a live event, simulcast between New York City and Bentonville, Arkansas, Walmart executives unveiled (just as we told you they would at the start of the day) the new Walmart Smart Network that will hopefully provide shoppers relevant and useful information via in-store TV (BUT oh how we wish they would drop that ‘TV’ moniker).

It’s being billed as the first “shopper-intelligent network at retail” and, we are told, is the result of two years and $10 million in research and development (used to identify the optimal locations, applications and programming for reaching store consumers)

The rollout begins September 2008 and it’s coming to 2,700 stores near you (or at least it will if you live in the US) – and Walmart anticipates that the chain-wide deployment of 27,000 screens will be completed by early 2010.

The press release we feel makes a little too much mention of IPTV and in fact even starts off in the first paragraph telling us that the network is “supported by a flexible, open enterprise platform powered by Internet Protocol Television (IPTV)” – I’m sorry but who cares if string and tin cans run the network as long it is shows sales uplift, is interesting, informative and is rewarding for thirdy party advertisers**

** Actually of course we do care but you get our point – digital signage or IPTV makes little difference and to start a Walmart press release that makes so much of what it offers with a technology statement makes little sense to us. Anyway, we guess that PRN are allowed a shameless plug they do after all run the network at the moment!!!

Stephen Quinn, chief marketing officer, Walmart Stores, U.S. told us “We’ve built a network tailored to the way consumers shop our stores – delivering helpful, custom, content closest to the point of decision – that helps them shop smarter,”

He continued “The Smart Network is intelligent too, because every screen and every message has a purpose and we will be analyzing point of sale data on an ongoing basis to deliver a shopper-centric communications platform. In short, the Walmart Smart Network is a win-win: improving the shopping experience for our customers and driving results for our supplier partners.”

Walmart gave a list of companies they would be working with in order to implement the new network – we believe at the behest of PRN who wanted a firm statement that they would still be involved…

  • Custom programming on the new network will be provided by Studio2, a newly formed company led by key advertising executives who are experts in in-store communications and were involved in the development and testing of the new network.
  • Network operations, implementation, advertising sales and HDTV wall programming will be provided by Thomson’s Premier Retail Networks (PRN), Walmart’s current partner for these services.
  • Response measurement, learning, and message optimization technologies will be provided by DS-IQ, which supplied analytical insights for the network pilot last year.

There is a lot of excitement around this announcement from industry insiders, veterans and industry watchers (such as ourselves) and we asked a couple of those for their view. Bill Collins, Decision Point Media, told us exclusively “During the current retail slowdown here in North America, it’s heartening to see Wal-Mart Stores make such a substantial commitment to in-store screen media. This is a real shot in the arm for the Digital Signage market in North America”

We say, well done Walmart and congrats to DS-IQ and PRN for their work to date on getting this all to fruition.

About DS-IQ

DS-IQ enables retailers, brands, and programming groups to understand and improve the effectiveness and relevance of in-store digital media. DS-IQ partners with leading network providers and retailers to develop more shopper-centric communication systems utilizing DS-IQ measurement and optimization technologies. Founded in 2003, DS-IQ is leading the development and use of scalable analytics and digital marketing for in-store media networks.

About Studio2

Studio2 is a newly formed creative and content development company based in Richmond, Virginia. Our mission is to provide shopper-relevant messaging for the Walmart Smart Network through custom production and consultation to Walmart, its suppliers and their advertising agencies. The company will be managed by professionals from multiple communications disciplines who are intensely familiar with Walmart and retail advertising.

One Response to “PRN Walmart Announcement Arrives”

  1. J. Woolsey CEO Says:

    Relevant in-store marketing is the key caveat, however after spending 10M w/ R&D WM should have learned DOOH is about marketing not TV. The very fact that WM is still calling the program WM-TV is a good indicator they don’t get it, perhaps a bit more attention to DOOH detail brand (marketing) vs. technology. Would also like to remind WM about the partnership they side stepped, WM International / Puerto Rico display pilot Visual Motivations August 1, 1995. Thing is WM was very excited about our DMP and wanted a detailed hard copy in order to rollout, Jackson former founder of VMI didn’t comply realizing that WM wanted to keep all the revenue thanks to a WM insider phone call and 10M dollars later they are still trying to figure it out. Someday WM should figure out the optimal loop composition and marketing refresh frequency, question is how much will they pay to plug & play…:)

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