POP progress slow but sure

It has always been a poor cousin to the traditional media. No glamour, no sex appeal....

It has always been a poor cousin to the traditional media. No glamour, no sex appeal.

But times change. And while in-store advertising may never enjoy the same respect accorded television, outdoor, radio or print, it is slowly beginning to gain recognition as a true medium.

It hasn’t been an easy battle, either. Good point-of-purchase (POP) advertising may well move product, but most agency creatives have traditionally looked down their noses at it.

"Point-of-purchase tends to be more pragmatic [than other advertising]," says Goodwin Gibson, vice-president and general manager of Blitz, the direct and in-store division of Cossette Communication-Marketing. "It has a very distinct purpose – either presenting a specific offer or detailing some product information. There’s not a lot of what I’d call raw creativity in it."

Still, that’s just one of the reasons in-store advertising has proven slow to come of age. An even more important factor is the lack of hard data to support the claims that POP suppliers make for its effectiveness.

"The industry has been around for many years, but it wasn’t really recognized as a discipline because there was no measurement of any kind," says Graeme Griffith, president of HMG Griffith, a Toronto-based manufacturer of in-store displays.

That, however, is changing. The first tentative efforts to produce data began in the 1980s, and the industry is now beginning to move toward the introduction of a broad-based system of measurement, such as exists in radio and television.

Recently, Washington, D.C.-based Point of Purchase Advertising International (POPAI) took an important step in that direction, with the completion of a pilot measurement program designed to gather data on factors such as in-store advertising execution rates.

While modest in scale, the pilot produced some eye-opening results. In those stores surveyed, execution rates for POP ranged anywhere from 30% to 70%. In many cases, as much as half of the display material provided by advertisers went straight into the retailer’s dumpster.

According to researcher Paula Payton, POPAI plans a multi-year, multi-channel study on in-store advertising. The next phase will focus on the execution and effectiveness of POP ads in U.S. grocery chains.

Eventually, the organization hopes to be able to produce report cards on various retailers, show which locations in a store ensure the best results for specific product categories, and offer data that advertisers can use to benchmark the performance of a campaign.

The feasibility of this ambitious scheme remains to be determined.

"In concept it’s a tremendous idea," Gibson says. "But it’s going to take the collaboration of a lot of parties."

Comprehensive data collection is an expensive proposition, he notes. That may not be a problem in the U.S., where major retail chains can spread the cost over thousands of outlets. But Canadian chains, which typically have far fewer stores, may find it prohibitive.

Nevertheless, the POPAI work is a move in the right direction, HMG’s Griffith says. In addition to generating useful data, it should help to set parameters for further study by other third-party measurement firms.

Credible data can help POP suppliers sell display concepts and offer better advice to clients, argues George Newans, marketing manager for Pickering, Ont.-based CDA Industries.

"If Nabisco said to us, ‘We want a unit seven feet tall to sit at the front of the store,’ we could be able to come back and say, ‘Hey, a seven-foot unit just doesn’t make it – but according to what we’re getting back from retail, a five-foot freestanding unit might.’"

On the whole, in-store advertising might be less marginalized if ad agencies were interested in playing a more active role in its creation. But for the most part, clients still tend to handle it themselves, often working directly with a POP supplier.

That’s the most logical approach, argues Darryl Nicholson, associate media director with Toronto-based Ammirati Puris Lintas. The client, after all, has closer relationships with retailers than the agency does – and it has a salesforce on the ground to make sure that in-store displays are properly executed.

The primary goal of POP, it’s generally agreed, is to drive an offer home – not to build a connection between the consumer and the brand. Still, as some observers point out, there’s no reason more agencies couldn’t be working with POP suppliers to ensure that in-store ads help to reinforce the message of a client’s mass-media campaign.

Winning the respect of advertisers and agencies is unquestionably important. But if POP advertising is truly going to thrive as a medium, then the industry needs more support from retailers as well.

Good co-operation from the retail side of the fence is critical to the success of any in-store advertising effort, Griffith says. Retailers have the sales data and the intimate knowledge of the store environment necessary to help develop POP campaigns that will drive sales, he argues.

"Retail execution is the biggest hurdle to maximizing return on investment," he says. "The greatest opportunity to enhance return on investment would be getting the retailer to buy in. We’ll have less waste and more profits for both sides – the retailer and the [client]."

Also in this report:

- Harry gets hip with casual campaign: Upscale retailer makes a play for younger, "new economy" business executives p.24

- Interactive merchandising on the rise: Just one of several trends apparent at GlobalShop 2000 show in Chicago p.25

- North West Co. nurtures roots: Retailer supports local activities in remote communities throughout the north p.27

- Traditional retailers can thrive in online world p.27

From Karen Howe’s dining table: Creativity, COVID and Cannes

ICYMI, The Township's founder gathers the best of the best campaigns and trends so far.

Cannes Base Camp

By Karen Howe

I’m attending Cannes from the glory of my dining room table. There’s not a palm tree in sight, yet inspiration and intel are present in abundance.

Cannes Lions is a global cultural pulse check. The social course correction in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and BLM has delivered far greater diversity in the judging panels as well as the work. And we are all better for it.

I’m proud to say that creativity defeated COVID, which speaks to its power. Great work and big ideas flourished, despite unimaginable odds.

The work from the past two years spans a vast emotional range. From the profundity of Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” to the hyper exuberance of Burberry’s “Festive,” they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but each answered a need in us.

Take note, the ascendency of gaming cannot be understated. Smart brands have embraced the channel. It makes sense, because gamers participate to meet others around the world, not just to play. And they represent a huge and powerful community. That’s why QSR Wendy’s gamified their iconic gal in RPG’s Feast of Legends.

Burger King sponsored the unknown Stevenage Football Club, transforming the team into online heroes and vaulting BK into the fray at the same time. Once again, the brand embedded itself in culture.

The birth of gaming tourism arrived when Xbox snuggled up to travel guides and created a brilliant baby: a travel guide for gaming worlds. It, too, embedded itself in culture.

From the standpoint of social good, Reporter Without Borders showed how it worked with Mindcraft for its “Uncensored Library” to bypass press censorship, with Minecraft providing a loophole to a space where young people could be educated. It provided youth with a powerful tool to fight oppression: truth.

COVID changed us in unexpected ways. We learned how to pay attention again and there was a notable lack of 30-second commercials. Instead, longer format content thrived. Apple’s WFH was seven minutes long. Entertainment reigned king, so we find ourselves returning to our advertising roots.

Seeing competitive brands form partnerships was one of this year’s other great surprises. The brilliantly simple “Beer Cap Project” by Aguila to reduce binge-drinking saw the brand reach out to competitive beers to join in. Aguila put incentivizing (keyword: free) reminders to drink water, eat food and get home safely on its bottle caps from all sorts of fast food chains, ride-share co’s and H2O brands.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Canada again this year. Given that it was two years of work from all over the world being judged, even making the Cannes shortlist was an accomplishment. Canada is herding in the Lions in tremendous numbers – and it’s not even over. Fingers are crossed.

KAREN-HOWE-PIC-higher-rez-300x263Karen Howe is a Canadian Cannes Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township Group