MEDIA: Stores eye poster profits - Supermarkets have moved into banking, petrol and clothes. Amanda Lutchford finds out whether they will now enter the marketing mix as media owners

Nine months ago, Sainsbury’s launched its video ’wonderwall’ at its store in Clapham, south London. The 17.5-metre wall was heralded as a major advertising opportunity which would be seen by 20,000 drivers and thousands of shoppers each day.

Nine months ago, Sainsbury’s launched its video ’wonderwall’ at its

store in Clapham, south London. The 17.5-metre wall was heralded as a

major advertising opportunity which would be seen by 20,000 drivers and

thousands of shoppers each day.



But last week, Sainsbury’s was forced to admit the wall was a flop. Few

advertisers had used it and shoppers could not actually see the TV

screens when the sun shone, although steps are now being taken to solve

that problem.



The ’blunderwall’ may prove a lesson for supermarkets considering the

opportunities open to them as media owners.



Several have talked about launching in-store TV stations, while other

advertising possibilities already include trolleys, petrol pumps and

till receipts. But the most obvious media vehicle is the supermarket

building itself.



Tesco is the latest supermarket chain to realise that there is money to

be made on the outside as well as the inside of its 550 stores.



It will shortly appoint an outdoor contractor to develop and sell

six-sheet sites at its stores. The shortlist has been whittled down to

Adshel and JC Decaux, which between them dominate the UK six-sheet

market.



Adlight, an outdoor contractor specialising in the supermarket six-sheet

format, already manages 3000 sites, divided between Kwik Save,

Somerfield and Asda.



But what restrictions will the supermarkets place on advertisers, and

will the sites become a serious part of the media mix?



According to Adlight managing director Keith Smith, this type of

contract is completely different from the normal relationship between

landlord and contractor. ’We wouldn’t advertise a brand which could be

sensitive to a promotion the supermarket might be carrying for a similar

own-label product,’ he says.



It is an issue that makes some media buyers question whether

supermarkets have a hidden agenda when it comes to deciding which

products can be advertised.



Yan Huybrechts, a director of MediaVest (formerly The Media Centre) with

responsibility for outdoor, says: ’There is some concern that it would

not be a strictly open market.’



In addition, the continued own-label threat to branded goods could deter

some advertisers.



However, Safeway, which launched the first of 2000 planned sites last

month through Maiden Outdoor, carried ads for FMCG brands Kellogg’s

Frosties and Cussons Imperial Leather.



But few would disagree that supermarkets are sitting on a unique

resource: a captive audience at the point of sale. And in a fragmented

media market, advertisers will be quick to seize any new alternatives

that promise to reach their target customers.