Ads On Conveyor Belts: The New New Thing

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Today’s Ad Age points to the latest media outlet: the checkout counter.

“Conveyor belts have never been on anybody’s radar screen for marketing,” said Frank Cox, president-CEO of EnVision Marketing Group, a Little Rock, Ark., firm with a patented system to print digital, photo-quality ads directly on conveyor belts. “But a store with eight to 10 checkout lanes, well, you’re talking about 100 square feet of wasted ad real estate.”

What’s interesting to me about this, as Ad Age uses the dubious term “ad creep” to describe it, is that the ad industry simply can’t lay the blame on guys like Cox for this increasing phenomenon. Yes, he smells an opportunity to make some cash and put ads in our faces where they haven’t previously been.
But I teach an advertising concepting class at a highly regarded ad school, and trust me, this kind of thinking is encouraged. Today’s ad students are constantly concepting new guerrilla and environmental ideas, and proposing to put ads and messages in nearly every space you can think of. Which, when they graduate and get jobs at agencies, will be all the more normal. Ad creep won’t go away, believe me.

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for TalentZoo.com. Dan published the best of his TalentZoo.com columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.

  • t

    i don’t what supermarket most people shop at, but whenever i come up to the checkout aisle, the conveyor belt is all but invisible because the woman in front of me has stacked 100 cans of cat food and a 30 pack of charmin on it. did anyone do a test to see how often the conveyor belts are actually uncovered?

  • nottomention

    Not to mention the fact that there are never more than three checkout lanes open in any one store at any one time, anywhere. Wasted real-estate is right. Then again, maybe if Retailing USA Inc. wasn’t too cheap to staff their stores adequately, it wouldn’t be. But hey, if advertisers are dumb enough to pay for ad space that is never used or seen by anyone, by all means, go ahead. Creatives at ad schools are only concepting this way because this is what the award juries have been rewarding of late. Perhaps when the idea of putting an ad someplace “new” is no longer seen as an idea in and of itself (as if it ever was to anyone over age 12), then working creatives and students alike will again see the value of creating cohesive campaigns instead of one-shot stunts served up annually at awards time by the CCO of their respective conglomerate corporations, as an example of how “creative” their network is. Yuk. Brand Managers of America, you deserve a refund.

  • nancy

    Not that I endorse the idea at all, but I think the conveyor belt, the part after the groceries are run over the scanner, is seen quite often. Lots of people go in and buy a couple of items and have to wait in between punching in their customer card # and swiping their credit card and then finally signing the receipt or getting change back.
    And I bet they are after the one or two item shoppers more than the woman doing bargain shopping.
    Next time you run in for just an item or two count the seconds you are watching that black belt. I bet it is at least five.
    is that all it takes?

  • http://multicultclassics.blogspot.com HighJive

    Well, nancy may be accurate, but there are other considerations. Can anyone think of an environment more over-saturated with advertising than a supermarket? Putting ads on the conveyor belt is like installing a neon sign in Times Square. It’s bad enough that most stores already hand you a 6-foot receipt loaded with messages — along with multiple video screens, ads on carts, nearby magazine racks and ad-filled muzak. All that’s left is to make the cashier girl wear a digital sandwich board while singing jingles. If someone’s teaching ad students to think like this, it’s pretty sad.

  • Carl LaFong

    I’m with nottomention and High Jive on this.
    I certainly understand the need to find new ways to reach consumers in today’s fractured media landscape. But as clever as many of these “non-traditional” placements undoubtedly are, they increasingly seem like one-shot gimmicks designed to win awards and impress other creatives rather than build brands.
    The irony is that, instead of cutting through the clutter, these “guerilla and environmental” concepts only add to it. It’s not just supermarkets that are oversaturated with advertising. Sidewalks, bus shelters, urinals, barf bags on airplanes: Everywhere you look, somebody’s trying to sell you something. No wonder people have OD’d on advertising: There’s no escaping it.
    As I’ve said before, it’s only a matter of time before they start tattooing ads on the inside of your eyelids.
    Here’s a radical thought: Instead of finding wacky and unexpected new places to run ads, why not just come up with better ads?

  • Nancy

    My radical thought: I dropped out of school.

  • jay

    For a supermarket brand, I was once asked to come up with a message to put on the divider bars on those belts. My reply was why would we put a message there when the consumer’s shopping experience is coming to a close.
    That project was killed.

  • eric

    i run an ad company and am very interested in the conveyor belt advertising idea. how much does it cost to print ads on the conveyor belts?

  • FOYFW

    Reply to HighJive August 17, 2006 10:24 PM:,
    Why are there people who think like you when people think outside the square with great ideas like this? Why can’t you just say “great idea”. Are you jealous or something? My comment comes some 3 years later because i just came across this but for goodness sake you have just become “there’s always someone in a group” person. It’s people who think like this who have made incredible inventions that help us live a bit better today. Boy oh boy.