Kinetic View: Tesco TV To Close: The End Of An Era?

Guest Contributor, Ivan Clark, Kinetic

When Tesco TV launched with much excitement and coverage five years ago, many people, including Tesco, believed that screens above the aisles in the busiest supermarkets in the UK would be a must-have for advertisers keen to promote their brands, and therefore were bound to attract large advertising budgets.

After all, the numbers are very impressive. £1 in every £7 spent in the UK goes through Tesco’s tills, whilst one third of the UK population shops at the country’s leading retailer.

Surely the size of audience and the fact they were positioned at the point of purchase would have advertisers queuing to buy space? But the dream didn’t become reality, and with the news that Tesco is to close the network, where did it all go wrong?

“It didn’t matter about the location; the concept of screens above head height, running TV-style content, with sound, to people on the move in focused ‘shopping mode’ in the busy, distracting, crowded supermarket environment is flawed”

People do not naturally look upwards when they’re moving around when in-store. Achieving in-store stand-out is very difficult and a supermarket is visually highly cluttered; consider all the money spent on eye-catching pack design and eye-level shelf placement. In addition, the sound was impossible to hear above the general levels of noise in the supermarket environment.

However much Tesco may have been able to leverage big brands to spend, ultimately the effect on sales was going to be measured. If the brands that trialled the network had got the sales uplifts they wanted, they would have invested in numbers.

Unsurprisingly, this was not the case. A purchase decision that generates a sale is not only more complex, but needs the required visibility and attention to have an effect.

The costs of the network infrastructure and the need for bespoke programming made the service uneconomic for Tesco. Perhaps this is just one of the early pioneers who will fold as new “plug and play” operators enter the market with lower cost, higher impact advertising solutions more akin to dynamic posters.

Digital media is rapidly developing along with the industry’s understanding of what works for consumers on the move. Where the industry was five years ago is very different to where it is today, and the new models are all the better for learnings gained through older concepts. With digital Out of Home media, certain formats provide creative, eye-catching and relevant contexts; others do not.

Our view was always to doubt the effect of this particular format. Our own digital research suggests that twice as many people look at a digital poster for an average of 60% longer than the static poster. At times, this figure rises to three times as many people looking for twice as long.

However, choosing the right digital format in the right context – particularly where people are moving – and creatively treating it as a poster rather than a TV channel, remains paramount to the success of driving advertiser ROI. In other situations, where people are stationery and willing to be engaged, a format more akin to TV, such as on station concourses and in taxis, has greater relevance and where the OOH TV model can work successfully. In today’s economic climate, this distinction has never been more pertinent.

Note: Ivan Clark is Director of Digital and Creative Solutions at Kinetic.

5 Responses to “Kinetic View: Tesco TV To Close: The End Of An Era?”

  1. Daniel Faughnan Says:

    Most things in business come down to a good dose of common sense!!!

    Either Tesco have not listened to good advice from their Incumbent or they have not yet received any!!!

    You would think with all Tesco’s financial clout and taking content delivery & execution aside, that they would deploy purpose made type pods-with screens strategically located in portrait format – so it looks like they are really committed to it rather that tvs hanging off unsightly poles from the ceiling. I am not at all suprised that Tesco have decided to close this network.

    What I am astonished about is how they can have overlooked such fundamental ” common sense” when it comes to some of the most obvious strategic factor’s that make up a successful digital screen network, some of which Ivan Clark has pointed out. I believe it is probably positive for all practioners operating within this industry that they do remove the network in its current form, as it is not a good example ( in terms of content execution or physical design ) or bench mark for retailers or indeed any sector considering adopting a screen network.

    It all goes to prove that even if you possess one of the largest retail spaces and footfall in the UK, ( where a properly deployed screen network without doubt has the ability to reap enourmous ROI,) that if you do not get the fundamentals right – a screen network will become ineffectual – which clearly in its current form has.

    Daniel Faughnan CEO PWG Screen Media Ltd

  2. james simpson Says:

    Mr. Clark is absolutely correct. I remember, before – and as a part of the reason – I involved myself in OOH, I was in a grocery store that had monitors over the checkouts. As I stood there I thought “there has to be a better way…”. Who would invest in placing an ad on a TV in a checkout line where it can only be focused on by someone who has already made their choices and are ready to get out of the store?

    My focus went to OOH as a flawed product, but nothing I read seemed to agree with me. Nevertheless, we started up to go after the stationary traveler/shopper, and we began in restaurants. I thought it made sense to stay as close to the pre-existing tv models as possible, and creative tv content was still difficult…almost impossible to find. So, use the existing channels and add a second view to the same screen.

    However, try to find an advertiser with that model. In fact, now as I type this, I feel foolish and vulnerable to have assumed something that obvious would have worked.

    The restaurant customer is sitting for 23 to 58 minutes waiting…waiting for a menu…waiting for service….waiting for a check….waiting. An upscale location probably could blend art from local galleries with gentle fades and change ups and not offend anybody, while a diner or deli client wants financial, local, weather and sports, and a tavern customer extreme sports and models…so even within the genre there are vertical markets.

    If we could have moved forward without worrying about the aspect ratio or the restauranteur’s individual opinions or factoring the cost of a $3K monitor, connectivity issues, security, creating a new “kind” of ad client and funding, MAYBE it would have worked. Alas, it was too early….but hopefully not too early to still be pursued by others and not too late to employ new knowledge from past errors.

    Unless the supermarket has a sit down eating area, our OOH TV didn’t – and won’t – work, nor will digital OOH Billboards unless inexpensively placed on top of the product on the shelves, where other content is just interference, and placed in the aisles, with a 10 second looping call to action that will convince a hesitant or vulnerable shopper to commit on the spot.

  3. tmaskell Says:

    I think it is to forget that apart from placement what matters is the business model also let me address some of the comments made through our own experience running grocery networks

    -screens placed on shelves retailers and suppliers are in conflict here retailers dont like them as they loose space which is sold to suppliers and suppliers want dedicated screens on shelves which makes it an impossible task to bring both parties into some common agreement
    – free-standing ipods retailers do not want anything placed at floor level due to forklift and palet movement
    – portrait is a good idea but advertisers dont have the time nor the inclination to repurpose their content and they dont want to spend money on it

    The question here is one of commercial and business modelling as always and how much the market at the end of the day can afford to pay; if retailers use other methods print, shelf space etc… it is very difficult to get suppliers to pay anything more as they already think they are overpaying retailers for the privilege of displaying and selling their product in the retailers stores

    The question in my view would be whether Tesco addressed the issue of credibility of the medium as part of below the line promotional activities through research, standards, measurement integration with EPOS data and reporting to prove the ROI or did they believe that purely because of sheer volume and numbers people would jump at the opportunity of advertising the products

    Also did they try to use it as part of a package including Tesco magazines online strategy, DRM campaigns thereby offering all the synergies needed?

  4. J. Woolsey (VMI) Says:

    I would agree relevance in retail media is key. Retail environments are built for one thing (move product). DOOH Networks must support this mission or all you have is more hyper-mediated space in an already busy environment. Anyone who would like to see a DOOH Network done right should visit a new Wal-Mart application as that team understands the relevancy of screen media to advertising ROI.

  5. Phil Holden Says:

    Daniel is right. In fact we had the opportunity to talk with both Saatchi & Saatchi and JCDecaux (both with links to Tesco and TescoTV) at an early stage. We were exploring a Danish system (called in the UK) which was low cost – much lower than the reported millions Tesco ‘invested’.
    We told them then that TV style content and overhead screen were both wrong. Effectively they patted us on the heads and said they had a robust model and were just about to roll out to all their stores. They never did roll it out.
    The most successful extant systems are those at transport terminals – around stations and by escalators. And these have adopted the ‘digital poster’ model we advocated. As for content, well that’s precisely the point. TV syle content is expensive (though we found suppliers able and willing) but graphic/animated content is less-so. Either way production values had to be high and ‘creativity’ restrained.
    By the way, sound was an important issue – and understanding the environment is the key. We managed to get sound that was focused into a square metre, if that was required.
    Even more vital was to understand what customers/audience were doing in the environment and their ability to respond.
    As I say, Daniel was right but tmaskall has a point. We suggested shelf top (indeed shelf edge) screens, but insisted that they be tested since they would have to pay for the shelf space they used.

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