A Match for the Ages: Televisions and Retail Stores

Love them or hate them, but it’s safe to say that televisions have permeated every aspect of our lives these days. No matter where you go, from supermarkets and sports arenas to schools, it’s not hard to find a television being put to work for a variety of purposes. Not all of these purposes are bad, however. Schools at all levels bring screens into the classrooms to show additional educational materials, and public places like train or bus stations can use them to keep travelers up to date on their departure time and give them something to watch on the screen in the meantime. This omnipresence means that screens are starting to be used more and more in retail stores as a method of advertising as well. Given that something like 70% of purchase choices (especially when it comes down to the specific brand being decided upon) are made right there in the store, this is one method of retail advertising that’s just going to keep getting bigger and bigger as time goes on.

Due to the nature of television in general, it seems that the advertising aspects were most likely a foregone conclusion. The television didn’t start out as an advertising tool, initially. After the telephone had proven to be a success in transmitting vocals across far distances, the next step was to see how this could transmission could be used with images. In the 1880s a process called ‘rasterization’ was developed, which was designed to convert a visual image into electrical pulses. Televisions today do pretty much the same thing when broadcasting programs, even though the process has become more refined over time. Over the next forty to fifty years the patents for television related devices and processes exploded, with many people trying to figure out what was the best way to broadcast moving pictures and bring them to the masses.

August 25th, 1900 was the first time the actual word ‘television’ made its debut. Constantin Perskyi coined it in a presentation given at the International World Fair in Paris. The word itself breaks down into two component parts: tele, which comes from the Greek word for ‘far’ and visio, which comes from the Latin word for ‘sight’. While many different inventors and scientists worked on getting television to what we know it today over the years, the men who really finessed the mechanics and processes to the point where it resembled the televisions that we’d recognize today (and presented them to the public) were John Logie Baird and Philo Farnsworth in the mid-to-late 1920s. Baird pioneered an electromechanical system that was adopted by the BBC in the early days of their television broadcasts, while Farnsworth came up with a fully electrical television that laid the foundations for the screens we have today. Hundreds of companies and countless people worked on television technology throughout the years, constantly trying to improve the broadcast technology for people. Once satellites such as the Telstar models were launched into orbit starting in the 1960s, it became even easier to create live and relayed broadcasts throughout the world. As I’m writing this article the 2012 Olympics are occurring over in London. Knowing that I’ve got the ability to turn on my television and watch events that are happening an ocean away really reminds me just how far television technology has come since those early days.

Now, there seems to be a bit of a discrepancy about the oldest television station that’s still operating to this day. In the United States WNBC can make the claim as one of the oldest, having premiered to the public in March of 1929 under the former call sign of W2XBS. Television stations, such as WRGB out of Schenectady, NY, had been broadcasting to some degree for about a year prior to that, although it wasn’t anything resembling a modern channel lineup with programs airing only sporadically. The problem with the WNBC claim is that, for the first two years of its existence, all the channel was really broadcasting was experimental images and tests (such as a spinning Felix the Cat doll – seriously). It wasn’t until 1931 that regularly scheduled programming started to emerge. In the meantime, the BBC had already begun to run limited but consistent programming as of September 1929, and kept it going fairly steadily from there. So it’s a bit of a toss-up as to which really counts as the longest running television station, but it’s safe to say that neither station is going anywhere anytime soon.

We do have WNBC to thank for the first ever televised advertisement, however. July 1st, 1941 Bulova Watches put up a brief image resembling a test pattern but still featuring their branding up on the screen right before the airing of the Brooklyn Dodgers-Philadelphia Phillies game airing that afternoon. And so history is made, because television is now one of the most popular and most effective venues for advertising in the world today.

One of the more unique ways that television advertising is being utilized in the 21st century is via the many stores that are incorporating television screens into their in-store marketing schemes. It’s hard to miss a television screen, really, especially if it’s one of the larger, flat-panel models that have become the new normal. Luckily, plenty of accessories and stands have emerged lately to make sure these flat screens can be easily placed in the most well-traveled areas and locations where they’re going to have the most effect on store or business patrons. Free-standing pedestals with screen mounts are popular choices as they can be moved around with just a push – and also arranged so that they don’t take up any floor space that’s dedicated for merchandise. Ceiling mounted brackets are also a popular choice as they keep the floor entirely free. These designs also keep the screens – which aren’t cheap – away from the hands of people who may want to cause potential mischief or damage them.

To see in-store television displays in action, head down to the nearest Wal-Mart and check out what they’ve been doing. Wal-Mart has incorporated screens into their stores for years, featuring a variety of programming depending upon what part of the store you’re in. They’ll run short, fifteen second ads for products they’re carrying that are interspersed between news and entertainment stories, as well as weather reports and other personal interest spots. This method has proven effective, helping to influence customers towards certain products and also keep them informed about the latest developments within the store. You’ve also got a captive audience, so to speak, so it’s hard for them to miss what’s playing on the screen.

Whether it’s a large box store or a smaller boutique shop, there are plenty of reasons for adding a television screen into the mix. You’ll enhance your promotional marketing, and bring attention to newly arrived merchandise. You can also keep your customers informed about upcoming events in your establishment. Television has grown exponentially since its inception, and we can only dream where it’s going to go from here and how it’s going to influence in store advertising and marketing even further.

Elizabeth L. Iacono is an employee at George Patton Associates, Inc., in the marketing department. To view the products mentioned in this article, please visit Displays2Go.


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