Some planners, buyers and visiting reps may take media department receptionists for granted, but that's now almost impossible to do at UM's West 33rd Street offices, where the agency unveiled a new, state-of-the-art commerce lab dedicated to beloved UM receptionist Marva Sealy.
The lab is named Marva's and dedicated to Sealy, who has been the agency's receptionist since 1999, and it offers the UM staff, clients, reps and even some trade reporters an opportunity to have a hands-on experience with the rapidly evolving technologies -- and interfaces -- influencing consumers' retail path-to-purchase.
"We showcase the power of commerce media across all touchpoints through a never-before-done, immersive experience,” boasts UM U.S. CEO W. Joe DeMiero, describing the installation as a "real-world convenience store" laboratory.
"We can observe how people shop, identify emerging trends in behaviors, and test new approaches in real-time, with the goal of supercharging our clients’ and our own commerce efforts now and in the future," he adds.
To outfit Marva's, UM's commerce unit partnered with Cooler Screens, Aki Technologies, Inmar Intelligence and Flowcode to showcase both in-store and digital media, including Grocery TV, Instacart's AI-powered "Caper Cart," Amazon's "Astro" delivery robot, and iHeartRadio's in-store radio station and future podcasts live inside the facility.
For planners and buyers, the lab offers a real-world opportunity to explore tactics, strategies, as well as content, vis a vis 400-plus retail media networks.
Interestingly, UM -- and parent IPG Mediabrands -- have had a long history of physical media lab installations going back to McCann-Erickson's media department's role as the first agency sponsor of MIT's fabled Media Lab, as well as IPG Mediabrands' own version of a media lab.
Also, former IPG Mediabrands lab and Shopper Sciences chief John Ross ultimately went on to run Inmar, where he built the retail media data giant's retail innovation lab (see video rendering below).
At a time when physical and digital media technologies are advancing so fast, I think it would be a good idea for other agencies to begin installing similar, hands-on experiences for planners and buyers, especially given the growth of retail and commerce media.
And if you do, think about dedicating to one of the unsung heroes sitting at your reception desk.