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MNB reported yesterday that CBS is continuing its efforts to target supermarket shoppers and get them to watch its network programming.

Last week, CBS acquired SignStorey, the digital display company with flat-screen televisions in more than 1,400 US supermarkets, for $71.5 million. And yesterday, we noted that Advertising Age was reporting that “after inscribing laser-coded CBS logos and slogans last year on more than 35 million eggs to promote its fall schedule, the network is staking out new territory at local supermarkets around the country … labels touting CBS’ new prime-time lineup are expected to appear on packaging and containers available at supermarket deli counters. So your half-pound of sliced honey ham could bear a label that tells you to be sure to tune in for CBS shows such as “Viva Laughlin,” “Cane,” or “Two and a Half Men.”

According to the story, “The promotion involves the printing and distribution of millions of coupons and labels to thousands of grocery stores nationwide, including Safeway, Albertsons and Price Chopper, among others. CBS said 70% of shoppers frequent the deli, meat and seafood section of their supermarkets, which means its food labels will have the potential to snare attention.”

I have been, to say the least, cynical about the CBS efforts, suggesting that once again it puts retailers in the real estate business, willing to sell almost anything for a buck even if it diminishes or dilutes the shopping experience. Which I think it does.

MNB user Annette Knapp seems to think I am overreacting:

Just yesterday, I was going through the blue envelope of ValPak coupons that comes in the mail regularly and imagine my surprise that one of the inserts was the CBS fall television schedule. I literally said "what the heck?" when I saw that. It got my attention.

Yes, but will it change your viewing habits?

More importantly, the ValPak envelopes are designed to be vehicles for a wide range of promotions. I’m not sure that the supermarket should be in the business of promoting non-related and ultimately irrelevant experiences and products for a buck. (I might feel differently about the ad programs, by the way, if the Food Network were involved…because I’d see the connection. But Charlie Sheen?

MNB user Chuck Kilgore wrote:

I'd be more concerned with CBS allowing Chuck Lore (Two and a Half Men's producer) to insert his philosophical, social, semi-political etc. views and opinions onto the viewing screen at the end of the show. Some of these are pretty radical and or bizarre. These are seen when using TIVO or a DVR and freezing the action.

I always thought those were a joke.

Another MNB user wrote:

Other buyers within have stated that CBS has been after General Mills for a couple of years to strategically place the CBS symbol on the front of the Cheerios box and use the side panel for fall line ups. If they put them on eggs ...

But hey, a quick nickel is better than a promised dime these days. The Mrs. was in a mall over the weekend and was given an iPod thing that she could wear while shopping in a certain store, it played a commercial free (almost) episode of 'Sex in the City', and kept her in the store about 30+ minutes longer than she said it would have normally done, and of course the wallet is a bit lighter as a result...only ad was for some summer clearance and info on the hot colors for fall winter...I wonder...if I'm in Home Depot on Saturday and ESPN was on some LCD monitors instead of DYI.. would I hang out a bit longer?.....maybe...

Another MNB user wrote:

The average person in bombarded by advertising in this country. ENOUGH. I do not ever want audio advertising while shopping anywhere. I do not shop with a list for weekly grocery trips. My mind is focusing on the items I need, the quality of the products and produce, pricing, what should I buy for the next meal and finally getting into line, placing items on the belt in the way I want them to go into the bags (refrigerated items together, canned goods together, crushable items last, etc.) I will block out any audio messages to the best of my ability because my mind is full of things I need to have there. This is why I prefer self-check out. I can concentrate on what I am doing rather than getting involved in conversation with the checker.

Also, I do not wish such intrusions to reach me at the gas pump or in a restroom (I have had such experiences). It is enough that my relaxation in front of the TV is constantly interrupted with repetition of mindless commercials, some of which I must watch several times to figure out what they are advertising (if I am that interested, which is rare). It is distressing to think that companies are given tax breaks to annoy the public like this. Put out a sample of a new product so I can taste it or try it, put up an interesting display of a new item to cause me to pause to look, but do not assault my senses to make the shopping process more difficult. In addition, background music is too stimulating on any level.

There are several chain restaurants whose food is appealing to me, that I will not visit because their music (not even something I would chose to listen to) is so loud I cannot block it out of my mind. I value my sanity, and quiet to enable thinking is a big part of that.

Another MNB user made an excellent point:

If the grocery chains say they promote bringing the family back to the table for dinner, advertising TV shows isn’t the best way to do it.

You’re right. And this really is the issue.

Getting the family back to the dinner table (where they presumably will eat more food sold by supermarkets) is supposed to be the industry’s long-term strategy. At least, it should be.

Selling ad space to CBS is a short-term tactic, and it violates the essence of the strategy. And yet companies put out their hands, accept the checks, and don't understand why this doesn’t make sense.
KC's View: