Perhaps the best measure of industry maturity is when people start suing each other. By that standard, it seems digital out-of-home video advertising has come of age.
Last month brought one of the medium's first major legal slap-fights, with Gas Station TV suing rival Outcast and a former vice-president of sales at NBCU for allegedly stealing trade secrets. GSTV is seeking an injunction and compensatory and punitive damages in a lawsuit alleging misappropriation of trade secrets, libel, interference with economic advantage, false advertising, and unfair competition.
According to GSTV's lawsuit, Michael Mongelluzzo allegedly gleaned details of GSTV operations from ad sales negotiations when he worked for NBCU as a vice-president of sales in 2009, then used his inside knowledge of the company to help his new employer when he moved from NBC to Outcast. GSTV accuses Outcast and Mongelluzzo of "disparaging GSTV in the marketplace" and "using GSTV's confidential client lists and information to contact and interfere with GSTV's customers, advertisers and business partners."
Outcast and Mongelluzzo both deny these allegations, stating that they had no knowledge of any of GSTV's proprietary information or trade secrets.
Like other legal disputes between close business competitors, the case hinges on allegations of deception, distortion, and rumor-mongering that may appear subtle or even trivial to outsiders -- not to mention a bit confusing.<
Specifically, GSTV accuses Outcast (with Mongelluzzo on board) of falsely asserting to potential advertising clients that GSTV lied about the number of impressions it garnered from its network of digital pump-top displays. GSTV says its competitor implied that GSTV misled clients by including, in audit figures supplied to Nielsen Media Research, gas pumps that didn't have GSTV screens installed.
According to GSTV, "Mongelluzzo has stated that GSTV's audited average monthly impressions per station are so high, compared to Outcast's reported average, that they must be false or exaggerated." The GSTV lawsuit also asserts that Mongelluzzo "called into question the accuracy of GSTV's audited data, the audit methodology, and even the auditors themselves, despite knowing that his statements are false and/or misleading."