Advertisers Set Up to Tackle Shoppers With Jazzy Displays, Gizmos

It is no small feat to make a display of Budweiser 12-packs look racy.

But one week before last year’s Super Bowl game, the manager of one Los Angeles area Liquor Barn outlet decided to give it a major- league effort. After all, he’d gotten a break on the price of Budweiser and had more Bud in stock than even the Clydesdales could cart.

So the store erected a mock stadium built from 2,000 Budweiser 12-packs. Not only did the display nearly reach the ceiling, but it stretched for 30 feet across the sales floor. A couple of inflatable toy blimps dangled nearby. Pennants promoting last year’s Super Bowl foes--the Washington Redskins and the Denver Broncos--hung around the Coliseum look-alike. And Budweiser banners were posted end zone to end zone.

This particular store might have overdone it a bit, but perhaps with good reason. Two out of three decisions to buy a specific product are made at the store, experts say. Sure, big companies have to introduce and promote their products with advertising, but often it’s what customers see at the store--the price, the display, the packaging, the supply and the in-store ads--that make the difference.


“Football fans who came into the store were all gawking at it,” said Richard Sage, manager of the Liquor Barn on Centinela Avenue and Vine Street. “I can’t say that I sold more Bud because of the display,” but the flashy exhibit did help improve overall beer sales at the store, he said.

The week before the Jan. 22 Super Bowl is when many shoppers will become increasingly aware of in-store advertising. This will be especially evident at supermarkets and convenience stores, where the makers of everything from beer to potato chips slug it out for the impulse shopper’s dollar.

Holidays aside, the Super Bowl spurs more parties than just about any other occasion, retailers say. Companies that make munchies and beer know that gobs of food and drink are consumed at these get-togethers. And, in addition to their regular advertising, many will try to boost sales with snappy displays and zippy banners.

While this in-store advertising may be more noticeable during Super Bowl week, it is actually with us all year long. In fact, last year more than $13.4 million was spent in the country on this form of promotion--and that figure could jump 16% in 1989, projects John Kawula, president of the Point-of-Purchase Advertising Institute in Englewood, N.J.

But these ads have recently grown to become far more sophisticated than simple banners or posters hoisted at supermarkets and liquor stores. And the computer chip is partly to blame for that.

One company, Videocart, is now test-marketing shopping carts with video screens that are triggered to flash various advertisements as shoppers roll down the aisles. Early technical problems delayed widespread use, although Vons plans to test them in March at one of its Los Angeles area stores. Meanwhile, another company is test-marketing a different kind of shopping cart--this one with a calculator on top, surrounded by product ads. “We expect to have them in California within the next year,” said Mike Brennan, president of Tulsa, Okla.-based Brennan & Associates.

Ads framed across the fronts of shopping carts have already become old hat. So have ads etched on cash register tapes, grocery store shelves and even video monitors near checkout stands. “We’re still trying to figure out, at what level do you drive the customers crazy?” said Kevin Davis, vice president of sales and advertising at the Ralphs supermarket chain. “Heck, we get complaints about the type of music we broadcast through our stores--let alone the commercials we run with the music.”

But experts say grocery shopping will eventually become something more akin to a ride at Disneyland. Already, at some East Coast grocery stores, special devices have been installed that will spew out specific product smells--such as chocolate chip cookies or coffee--when customers roll their carts by. And several K mart stores have installed “Voice Vendors.” These are basically tape recordings--activated by body heat--that start promoting specific products to unsuspecting shoppers.

The wackiest devices, however, are yet to come. One manufacturer is working on a laser projection device that would project life-size images similar to hologram ghosts seen at several attractions at Disneyland. At the supermarket, the device could project images of celebrities that would seem to walk, talk, and perhaps even dance next to shoppers. Imagine, for example, Bill Cosby’s ghostly image guiding you over to the freezer with Jell-O pudding pops.

“Whenever advertisers can get their hooks into us, they will try,” said Fred Danzig, editor of the trade magazine Advertising Age. “I don’t know when you reach the saturation point, but I suppose it’s when, at the end of six months, a point-of-sale advertiser realizes, ‘Heck, we haven’t sold any more cookies.’ ”

Some advertisers, however, say point-of-sale advertising is their life blood. “It’s absolutely critical,” said Susan Clark, marketing director of the California State Lottery. “If someone sees our ad near the checkout stand, it can make the difference between them putting that $2 change back in their pocket, or buying a couple of lottery tickets.”

Some of the lottery’s ads appear at 7-Eleven convenience stores. And 7-Eleven has just begun a “ground to ceiling” review of the myriad of advertisements that are plastered in its stores. “It’s not that we’re doing a bad job,” said Don Cowan, publicity manager of the 7,000-store chain. “But we think it could look a lot better.”

Budweiser, Miller Armed for Big Event

After all these in-store ads have enticed you to load up on beer, pop and munchies for Super Bowl Sunday, you can sit back and watch beer commercials.

Miller has paid the National Football League big bucks to call its Miller Lite brand “the official beer of Super Bowl XXIII.” And Budweiser is spending even bigger bucks on an ad campaign for the “Bud Bowl” that will rank among the most costly in Super Bowl history.

The estimated $6-million Budweiser campaign will include a series of six commercials that are a spoof on the Super Bowl. In each ad, a team of 12 Bud Light bottles will do battle on the gridiron with a team of 12 Budweiser bottles. To encourage viewer involvement in these ads, Budweiser will divide $100,000 among those viewers who mail in official entry forms--available at stores--with the correct scores from each of the “Bud Bowl” quarters.

“Fans will finally have a reason to stay tuned during the fourth quarter,” said Tom Sharbaugh, group brand director at Budweiser.

Meanwhile, Miller beer plans to give away millions of Super Bowl guides featuring team profiles--and of course, lots of Miller Lite advertisements. These 20-page guide books will be distributed free at 200,000 outlets nationwide. “The Super Bowl isn’t just a sporting event,” said Eddie Gossage, public relations supervisor for Miller Brewing Co., “it’s the event.”

Lottery Will Keep ‘Sweet Dreams’ Alive

Don’t place any bets against the California State Lottery’s two Southern California ad agencies. Last month--for the second consecutive year--the lottery awarded its $30-million ad business to Dailey & Associates and its $7-million minority advertising account to Irvine-based Casanova Pendrill Publicidad. The lottery reviews its agencies annually--and traditionally makes substantial changes to its ad campaign each year. But Susan Clark, the lottery’s marketing director, said Dailey’s current “Sweet Dreams” advertising campaign is so successful, “we’ll continue to use that same campaign in 1989.”

Agencies Line Up for HomeClub Account

A wild scramble for HomeClub’s estimated $15-million advertising business is in full swing. One ad executive estimates that up to 60 Los Angeles area ad agencies have shown an interest in the Fullerton home improvement chain’s ad account.

HomeClub was dropped last month by the ad agency Admarketing, when it won rival Home Depot’s $25-million business. Said one agency executive: “It’s the biggest game in town.”

Video-Game Strategy Falls to Della Femina

The video game is still rather hush-hush, but a $3-million advertising budget to promote it was trumpeted at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last weekend. A new game to be introduced this fall by Redwood City, Calif.-based software firm Epyx Inc., was awarded last week to the Los Angeles office of the ad firm Della Femina, McNamee/WCRS.

“The secret is to get young boys to get their parents to buy it,” concedes Peter Stranger, president of the ad firm. The advertising, said Stranger, “will bring out the little boy hidden in all of us.”