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Co. Bringing Video Ads to Gas Pumps

June 18, 2000

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) _ How do you fill that idle time while you’re standing at the gas pump waiting for your car’s tank to fill?

Anton Bakker hopes to turn a profit by giving you something to watch. His Outsite Networks, a nine-employee Norfolk company, is making durable television monitors that can be mounted on gas station islands to show news, weather and advertising.

Last week, the technology made its hometown debut at Miller Marts in Norfolk and Newport News.

``You’ve got four minutes, on average, of staring into space″ at the gasoline pump, said Jeff Miller, president of the stores’ parent company, Miller Oil.

Gas stations like the Miller Marts buy the screens from Outsite and pay a subscription for its information feed. For now, the monitors likely will tune in satellite broadcasts of CNN or the Weather Channel, but station owners can log onto Outsite’s Web site and control what’s playing, write messages hawking convenience store items and insert local advertising.

Bakker declined to give exact figures for the system’s cost, citing competitive concerns. But he said retrofitting pumps runs about half the price of new, fully equipped multimedia pumps, which can range from $10,000 to $15,000.

``We’re an interesting mix of the old and new economy,″ he said.

The Wall Street Journal reported recently that Chevron Corp. and BP Amoco are test marketing Internet-ready, ad-flashing gas pumps this summer. The companies could roll out the devices on a larger scale by fall.

Industry observers say it’s too early to tell if the idea will take off.

``It’s still very much in test mode,″ said Maureen Azzato, vice president and publisher of the New York-based trade magazines Convenience Store News and the Journal of Petroleum Marketing.

An important question, Azzato said, is, ``How much time will consumers really spend at the pump?″

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