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Commercials for Consumers while They Shop

Digital display company AdSpace wants to fill South Jersey malls with giant advertising screensParamus

Some malls in southern New Jersey may soon add sales pitches booming from 60-inch plasma TV screens to the sensory overload that accompanies the modern shopping experience.

AdSpace Networks, a New York City firm that does business with 26 malls across the country, has had its big digital displays in the Garden State Plaza mall in Paramus since 2004. It hopes to bring them to centers in the southern part of the state by the end of the year.

Bill Ketcham, senior vice president of marketing and programming with AdSpace, says there are about 25 malls that fit his firm’s profile. The company, founded in 1998, is in talks with Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust in Philadelphia, which owns several local malls, and the Echelon Mall in Voorhees. All four facilities under discussion span at least 900,000 sq. ft.

Ketcham hopes to have at least one pilot mall this year. “We’d like to be in three malls by January or February of next year,” he says.

AdSpace programming consists of six-minute loops featuring sales from mall retailers, other retailers’ paid advertisements and news from the mall operator.

AdSpace staffers survey the discounts offered by retailers to choose 10 deals for the week. Retailers provide pictures of the sale item, the store’s logo and text for the spot. Software builds the 10 commercials automatically, says Ketcham. “We did a lot of focused research, particularly among women, and what they really want to know is what’s on sale.”

While the 10-second deal spots and ads for the mall operators are free, AdSpace charges for the 15-second commercials, divided among local, regional and national advertisers.

Rates vary by mall; at the Garden State Plaza the ads cost $2,500 per week. “That means your ad is up 10 times an hour, 100 times per day,” says Ketcham. “So you are basically buying 700 ad spots per week for $2,500.”

Others have tried and failed to make a go at this type of business. Screenzone Media Networks in South Orange gave it a shot in 1999, installing kiosks with 4-foot-by-8-foot video screens that played movie trailers to entice mall-goers into using the device to buy tickets. They were also tried as platforms to promote music releases, television shows and consumer products to young mall crawlers. But Screenzone quietly shut down, never meeting its goal of installing 100 video kiosks across the country.

The idea of hitting people with ads while they shop still draws retailers’ attention, but it’s not at all clear who the winners will be. “It certainly poses a very interesting opportunity to be in the mall,” says Patrice Duker, manager of media relations for New York City’s International Council of Shopping Centers, a trade organization. “Right now it is early to determine the success rate.”

Because its average installation costs AdSpace about $250,000, it targets facilities that are larger than 700,000 sq. ft., have 150 to 250 retailers and see more than 1 million visitors per month. There are 22 screens at Garden State Plaza, AdSpace’s largest mall. Advertisers there include Legal Sea Foods, Dello Russo Laser Vision, Bergen Regional Plastic Surgery and GEICO.

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