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New Ad Medium’s a Real Gas Attack

By Jim Bray

A marketing wind blowing out of Eastern Canada could prove even more annoying than sky high gasoline prices and taxes.

It’s an Ontario company’s plan to make your neighborhood gas pumps tax your patience while it empties your wallet.

Timeline Media Corporation is currently test marketing a sensory assault that’ll result in beleaguered consumers being bombarded with commercials during their periodic pilgrimages to their preferred purveyors of petroleum products.

Talk about a gas attack!

The concept is simple: they mount a TV and a speaker on top of the gas pump and use them to shove 15 to 60 second commercials – and five minute infomercials – down our collective throats.

This, supposedly, isn’t merely a crass attempt to cash in on the good nature of North American consumers. Not at all; TimeLine Media says it also offers local and national news, promotional coupons, and even “questions of the day.”

So I guess if nothing else, they’ll be giving you the opportunity to yell back as the gas pump is yelling at you...

TimeLine claims its scheme – er, program – offers advertisers access to the untold millions of people who take out second mortgages each day in order to gas up their wheels. They further claim that advertisers who use their service can also take advantage of a wide variety of marketing tools, including the number and profile of the people receiving their pitches.

Which means that, as old Betsy’s getting gassed up, the advertisers are getting pumped up with demographic information about little ol’ you.

That’s right: Big Brother is watching us, even as we nestle that nozzle into our Nissans!

TimeLine says the benefit to advertisers is that they can target the captive gas station consumer audience. No kidding! Timeline is giving advertisers the ability to shoot fish in a barrel!

The other side of the coin, according to the company, is that – finally! – consumers can have some fun at the pumps.

This, of course, depends on your definition of “fun.” I can think of many things that are more fun that being “virtually accosted” by a gas pump, even though I’m usually a sucker for new technological trends.

Still, the company says its polling shows that people who’ve used the so-called service are overwhelmingly in favor of it. They apparently find the interactive screen attractive, and with a good picture quality – and most said they’ll probably watch the stuff again.

As if they have any choice if they want to continue frequenting that particular gas bar!

I haven’t actually seen one of these setups yet, so maybe it isn’t fair to judge – but I understand the concept well enough to feel that, if push comes to shove, I’ll be the first one to bypass TimeLine-afflicted pumps and get my petroleum fix elsewhere.

Gassing up is one of the few occasions left in this modern world of ours where you can escape today’s sensory overload. The neighborhood gasoline island is an oasis of relative tranquility – assuming you can shut out the traffic sounds and the smells – and I do some of my best thinking at the gas pumps (and in that little room off my bedroom).

I don’t know about you, but I’m exposed to more than enough advertising already and I’d rather be cold, wet, and lonely – and a free person – than have one more noisy ad barrage raining down on me from above.

Now, I would never infringe on TimeLine’s right to market a product, and I grudgingly wish them success. I, however, will be taking full advantage of my free market ability to shop elsewhere.

Unless, of course, TimeLine’s users want to buy back my affections by reducing their gas prices enough to make the ad bombardment easier to justify.

I’m willing to bet, however, that that isn’t considered part of the equation.

Then again, maybe future families will enjoy huddling around the gas pump much as my parents’ generation gathered around the radio and my generation gathers around the TV. Maybe going to the neighborhood gas island will become a whole new social event, where you can meet friends, gas up, feed, and get caught up with the news headlines, all at the same time.

Maybe the old line “Come with me to the casbah” will be replaced by “Come with me to the gasbar.”


Jim Bray's technology columns are distributed by the TechnoFILE and Mochila Syndicates. Copyright Jim Bray.


Jim Bray is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada. His columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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