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Sun 12 Nov 2006 04:00 AM

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Shopping for innovation within the region's malls

The argument for advertising in shopping malls is a strong one. Indeed, Middle East consumers are likely to be spending even more time in shopping centres in the coming years.

The argument for advertising in shopping malls is a strong one. Supporters of the medium can talk about the captive audience and the fact that mall visitors are more likely to react favourably towards product messages they see because they are in a spending mood.

Indeed, Middle East consumers are likely to be spending even more time in shopping centres in the coming years.

If Dubai's rampant construction is anything to go by, shopping malls are set to take up an increasing chunk of people's lives. Whatever you need, from food and clothing to fitness and recreation, will be housed within the four walls of the mall. Fancy a ski? The slope's in the mall.

But try this. Can you remember one ad that you saw on your last visit to a shopping mall.? It's not easy to recall a campaign, is it?

The fact is that while malls have got the audience, and the frequency, there is little in the way of creativity to drive the message home. For this reason, point-of-sale media continues to be seen as a lesser media by agencies and advertisers.

But this is a problem worth solving. The huge numbers of consumers who visit malls, coupled with the gradual fragmentation of TV station's audiences, means that mall media cannot be ignored.

One way of making in-mall media more compelling is innovation. We are already witnessing plasma screens and sampling stands that enable products to tailor their message, but even these are becoming part of the wallpaper of mall interiors already.

In our feature today, Unilever's Rod Maxfield talks about visual identity that acts as a 'glue' for campaigns. This is crucial. In the multi-sensory arena of the mall, where countless messages are jostling for position in the consumer's mind, weighed up and dismissed in a matter of nano-seconds, an instant recognition tool is vital. Something that stops the shopper in their tracks and generates a positive association with the brand being advertised.

In addition, agencies must devote more time to in-store media. Many already have such a department, but others lump it in with DM, or, even worse, see it as little more than shelf wobblers and display stands.

It might not be the most thrilling of communication channels, but the potential benefits of using mall media are too great to be ignored.

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