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Please, Just Let Me Fuel Up in Peace

GSTV_FUELING_ESPNTry as we may, we can’t get away from each other.

We’re connected 24/7 by cell phones and computers in the home, office and on the road.

When we aren’t online, on the phone or going old school by having actual conversations, we crave information by the truckful.

So the TV’s on several hours a day in most households, serving up hundreds of channels in a never-ending parade of entertainment, sports, news, politics and altered reality.

Escaping it all requires creativity, like shutting off the electricity.

For some, pumping gas provides one of the few solitary moments of the day, thanks to the myth that operating a cell phone could trigger an explosion at the pump.

But now even the sanctity of the gas pump is under fire. Gas Station TV is on a mission to transform the consumer experience at the service station by positioning television screens with sponsored programming above the pump.

For an average of 4½ minutes, GSTV has a captive audience, and the Birmingham, MI, company has inked deals with ESPN, NBC, CNBC News, Access Hollywood and local weather forecasters to provide compelling content to help wile away the time.

For every 30 seconds of programming, there are 15 seconds of advertising from corporate giants such as General Motors, Toyota, PepsiCo, Wal-Mart and Kraft Foods. In all, GSTV has more than 40 advertisers.

The network is available at 1,000 service stations in more than 100 markets in the U.S. In its home market of metro Detroit, the screens are visible at 51 stations. The biggest market, predictably, is California.

GSTV is the brainchild of CEO David Leider, who created the network at his home four years ago in Oak Park in suburban Detroit. Today, some 30 million viewers every month see GSTV, including 26 million at gas pumps and 4 million at kiosks in convenience stores. Leider claims 70% market share for GSTV.

He’s absolutely right when he says many advertisers aren’t getting bang for their buck with traditional TV because of the rising popularity of digital video recorders, as well as mute buttons on remote controls.

“We talk directly to consumers on the go,” Leider says. “And that customer is often in the market for a new car.”

America must be embracing these interactive gas pumps, considering Leider’s plan to double viewership and continue growing his staff by up to 20% within the next two years. GSTV currently has 35 employees.

As for me, I’d like to be able to turn off the screen while I’m pumping fuel, or at least give us a mute button. But Leider says there are no such plans.

“And you can’t turn it down, either,” he says. “The best I can do is guarantee great content and a great viewing experience.”

Following GSTV’s model, I suppose “captive audience” advertising has a market on subway cars and buses and even on vehicle rear bumpers. And how soon before these TV screens show up on seat backs in stadiums, like those already on airliners?

But the day they show up in bathroom stalls, I’m checking myself in for solitary confinement.

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