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

In Brief: The Garden picks CDs to take on daily creative leadership

Plus, Naked names two new leaders of its own and Digital Ethos comes to Canada.

The Garden promotes two creative directors

ACDs Lindsay Eady and Francheska Galloway-Davis have taken over responsibility for day-to-day creative leadership at The Garden after being promoted to creative director roles.

The pair will also help develop the agency’s creative talent, formalizing mentorship and leadership activities they have been doing since joining the agency four and three years ago, respectively. In addition to creating the agency’s internship program, the pair have worked on campaigns for Coinsquare, FitTrack and “The Coke Challenge” campaign for DanceSafe.

Eady and Galloway-Davis will continue to report to The Garden’s co-founder and chief creative officer Shane Ogilvie, who is stepping back from daily creative duties to a more high-level strategic role, allowing him to focus on client relationships and business growth.

Naked Creative Consultancy names new creative and strategy leadership

Toronto’s Naked Creative Consultancy has hired Yasmin Sahni as its new creative director. She is taking over creative leadership from David Kenyon, who has been in the role for 10 years and is moving into a new role as director of strategy, leading the discipline at the agency.

Sahni is coming off of three years as VP and ECD at GTB’s Toronto office, where she managed all the retail, social and service creative for Ford Canada. She previously managed both Vice Media and Vice’s in-house ad agency Virtue.

Peter Shier, president of Naked, says Sahni’s hiring adds to its creative bench and capabilities, as well as a track record of mentorship, a priority for the company. Meanwhile, Kenyon’s move to the strategy side, he says, makes sense because of his deep knowledge of its clients, which have included Ancestry and The Globe and Mail.

Digital Ethos opens a Toronto office

U.K. digital agency Digital Ethos is pursuing new growth opportunities in North America by opening a new office in Toronto.

Though it didn’t disclose them, the agency has begun serving a number of North American clients, and CEO/founder Luke Tobin says the “time was right to invest in a more formal and actual presence in the area.” whose services include design, SEO, pay-per-click, social media, influencer and PR,

This year, the agency’s growth has also allowed it to open an office in Hamburg, Germany, though it also has remote staff working in countries around the world.

Moray Hickes was the company’s first North American hire as VP of sales, tasked with business development in the region.