Tesco TV was the biggest story in out-of-home media back in 2004 - in fact, it was probably one of the biggest stories in the whole media sector that year. There were all sorts of interesting angles. First, here was surely evidence at last that outdoor media was about to take the evolutionary leap forward that everyone had been theorising about for years - into out-of-home television.
Then there was the retailer angle. The power of the major supermarket chains (notably Tesco, which always seems to be years ahead of the pack when it comes to harnessing consumer relationships) had been growing rapidly over the closing decades of the 20th century. These stores boasted of taking an increasing share of consumers' expenditure and their non-work daylight hours. Now they were leveraging share of mind.
That, in turn, was bound to have a knock-on effect on the way the owners of mainstream consumer brands marketed themselves. As Tesco TV went live at stores in Leeds and York in April 2004, the medium seemed to embody a futuristic new consumer economy in which the retailer had finally demonstrated absolute ascendancy over the packaged-goods brands. There were even those who argued that the supermarkets would press advertisers into bypassing conventional marketing structures entirely as they sought to become, in effect, their communications agencies.
But it hasn't quite worked out that way. For instance, there has not been the predicted desperate rush by other retailers to copy the Tesco TV template. Spar, Asda and Boots all had plans but the economic downturn put these on hold.
And this year there has been anecdotal evidence from outdoor specialists that the demand for supermarket TV is below expectations. JCDecaux, which sells Tesco TV, would dispute this, but, might also concede that advertisers have taken a while to get their heads around the nature of the creative opportunity on offer. This is absolutely not, it insists, an environment where a broadcast television campaign, no matter how cleverly repurposed, can really work.
The best campaigns so far have divided up the screen into sections. Typically, a static pack-shot will be visible the whole time, in addition to information about where in the store to find the product and its price. Only a small amount of space will be given over to a basic animated sequence. It's TV but not as we know it - and to some it has proved slightly disappointing.
JCDecaux is also on a learning curve as to the best metric to use in selling it. At first, raw footfall figures were used to derive a notional audience. Now more sophisticated measures are being used to calculate a more accurate measure of real viewing.
The medium's fans continue to point out that supermarket TV still has bags of potential, and it dovetails powerfully with other instore media - from shelf wobblers to baskets, trolleys and ads on the back of till receipts - which can be sold as a package. Meanwhile, in-store media is also beginning to contemplate its next leap forward by using mobile devices to interact with screen-based special offers.
MAJOR PLAYERS: Rebus, Sales Activation Solutions, JCDecaux/Tesco
WHAT'S NEW: Instore screens
CASE STUDY - Nescafe
Agencies: MindShare, Concord and Fairfield, Nestle's in-house agency
Media owner: Redbus Outdoor
Brief: Use Redbus Outdoor's retail media network to target customers for
the duration of the time they are in the store and at the crucial moment
when they are about to make a purchase
Budget: Not disclosed
Target market: Women aged 30 to 50
Sector inventory used: Supermarket trolleys in multiple retailers such as Sainsbury's and Somerfield, giving Nestle access to more than 120 million shoppers a month.
Wider outdoor inventory used: Buses, 48-sheets, 96-sheets (specials such as spanglys), point-of-sale six-sheets.
Other media used: TV, press, radio.
Client testimonial: Katie Graystone, director of Fairfield: "Trolleys enable Nestle to remind consumers, in a cost-effective manner, of our advertising message within the store environment."