Contact: Integrating In-Store Media

Walk into any Wal-Mart these days and you're bound to notice the large-screen TVs placed strategically throughout the store. Peering up at one, an aol-sponsored live concert comes on. The video engages you enough that you sidle down to the music/electronics department to search for the artist's latest cd. You spot it and notice free cds for aol membership. The AOL CD cover promotes a new single from your favorite artist released exclusively to aol members. Backstage concert photo collages, or links to a free song download might also be offered. It's too good to pass up, so you grab a copy of AOL, install it, and sign up.

That is precisely what aol was hoping you would do. This softer, multimedia sales approach is just one of several ways aol's partner marketing group is working with retailers to lure consumers. "We're increasingly looking to target consumers better," says Clay Buckley, vice president of retail marketing for the group. Since Wal-Mart is the "leading retailer of music in the country," according to Buckley, "we've got a captive music buying audience there." That, he says, makes aol's exclusive concert series a perfect tie-in.

At retailers like Best Buy, Circuit City, and Compusa, which attract more tech-savvy consumers, customers might see "how-to" videos on wall-mounted tvs or demonstrations on pcs. "Then, I will have trained all their salespeople on the benefits of aol services; and I'll have point-of-purchase materials," Buckley says. "But it won't come across as 'salesy,' the salespeople will act as consumer advocates."

This also makes the retailers happy. Retailers want to provide a "nice experience for customers while they're shopping," Buckley says. "For that reason, they mandate that in-store advertising can't be a hard sell." While aol has focused on opening up its content to non-members, the retail efforts are about attracting new members. "Retail is one of the most profitable drivers of new subscriptions," Buckley says.

Next, Buckley's group will launch aol Optimized, a value-added service designed to help consumers navigate online photo-sharing, downloading music files, and content storage. An integrated in-store marketing program is planned for Compusa, with other chains to follow.

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