Marketing To a Captive Audience


I took this picture at a gas station in Lexington, KY on Saturday. What you see is a speaker mounted to a gas pump at a Shell Station. When I started to pump gas, a recording came on and said something like

Hey! Are you feeling a little run down? Pop inside and grab an energy bar before you run that next errand.

I wasn't feeling run down, and I didn't go inside to buy anything, but I think it is a smart idea to market to me at the gas pump. Usually I just stand there, looking around at the other people pumping gas. I think that's what most people do. It's a captive audience, so it's smart to market to them when they can't ignore your message.

Come to think of it… why doesn't someone put up a video screen that has a list of 10 products? If I'm in the market for one of those products, I can touch the screen and watch an ad about that product, and get $0.05 a gallon off of my gas purchase. Then advertisers could pitch to a captive audience that is interested in their product, I can save money, and gas stations can increase their revenue.

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  • Hi Rob,

    Down here in sunny AZ I’m starting to see video-equipped gas pumps. How long it will take to go to your ‘completely rational so no one will do it for years’ model is up for speculation.

  • Michael

    As a business owner I am understand the need for marketers to find and convert more customers but it worries me that we are turning more heretofore “open” public spaces into opportunities to market.

    I cringe when I have to wait through coming movies for my movie and have to listen to advertisements in public places when all I wanted was to get some gas, maybe watch some other people and GO.

    I don’t like marketers intruding on my “free space” and I worry about the increasing trend in this direction.

    I wish that I had a way of punishing companies that so intrude. Will someone please invent a way to punish these offending companies. I would gladly pay money to defend myself against these intrusions.

  • Oh it’s coming… and guess who will bring it to us?

  • WHAT?! You’re absolutely serious aren’t you? We have the video advertising up here in Canada where this blaring message comes on when you start to pump and goes on and on.. Yes, I am a captive market simply because I can’t go anywhere else to get fuel for my car – I have to visit a gas station and use their pumps. Yes, I am on their property, using their service, yet the reality is that I have no choice in the matter AND I am providing them with PROFIT.

    There is nothing more intrusive than audio advertising and whoever came up with the idea for gas stations should be shot.

    We all wondered about the video advertising when Tim Hortons introduced video screens at the drive through and above the counter up with their product offerings/pricing, yet there is no audio. People watch, people don’t watch, and people don’t really care. There is no doubt that it has helped increase revenue (who can resist the sight of a freshly baked steaming muffin with butter melting down the face of it?), yet someone there decided that it would be a GOOD IDEA not to bombard their customers with audio from which they can’t escape from – this person should be commended!

    Video you can look away – what the hell are you supposed to do with audio advertising blaring away?

  • Actually, there is a chain of really cool gas stations in Tulsa, OK that actually give you the option to place a valet order at the gas pump.

    So…if you’re in the mood for an energy drink and a Snicker’s then press the button, place your order, and they are there delivering your goods to you before you finish pumping.

    Never really saw that many people using the service…but it did look tempting on those days when I didn’t feel like going in.