In just the latest example of advertising’s near-total invasion of our lives, comes the news that startup Gas Station TV has pulled up to the pump. Calling itself a "network," GSTV will "broadcast" national and local TV commercials on 20-second, pump-mounted digital TV screens at gas stations.
Now I know some of you think I like to bash advertising just for the fun of it. But, c’mon, could the timing of this be any worse? With gas prices rising faster than the temperatures around the Arctic Circle, does anyone in their right mind think TV spots will encourage incremental impulse buying at the local ExxonMobil station?
I can just picture it now. Bob and Madge McAverage have been driving through hail and rain for hours and are running low on gas. Bob Jr., Little Madge and Sydney have been driving their hard-working, middle class parents absolutely nuts with their screaming and yelling in the back seat. Suddenly, Madge spots a gas station and begs Big Bob to pull over and fill up. She dashes to the convenience store to buy some goodies to placate the kids and freshen up. In the meantime, Bob is pumping some $60 worth of fuel into his Hummer when he spots the digital TV screen and sees some oh-so-enticing spots for Chevy, Allstate and Skoal. As an exhausted Madge comes back with the kids in tow, Bob asks if he can order a couple of tins of chewing tobacco and personal life insurance to go. Madge tells Bob what to do with the gas nozzle.
Someone far smarter than me once said, "In life, timing is everything." In my opinion, the timing for Gas Station TV couldn’t be any worse. Americans are up in arms over the outrageous gas prices and exorbitant profits being reaped by the oil companies. So, Gas Station TV comes along and says, "Hey, we have a captive audience here. Let’s subject the poor bastards to some ads." Why not? And, why stop with just gas stations? How about Telephone Pole TV? Would you believe Stop Sign TV? Or, how’s this one: Department of Motor Vehicles TV. Talk about a captive audience!