Clearly there is a trend toward untraditional means of shopping. The mail order industry is on a steady rise, and Internet shopping continues to draw more retailers and consumers. As new media technologies become more prevalent, retailers are searching for cost-effective ways to reach consumers as an alternative to the escalating costs of traditional media advertising.

In an effort to fill that void, On Sight Media's Wish Mall Network launched in 19 malls nationwide on Dec. 1, 1998. The advertising network combines broadcast advertising with entertaining programming and features sponsor advertisements along with news, movie trailers and music videos. The units, strategically placed within the highest traffic area of each mall, mainly the food court area, reach more than 17.5 million consumers per month at the point of sale, where 70% of buying decisions are made. Ultimately, units will roll out to more than 100 malls and reach over 80 million consumers monthly.

Measurable advantages Compared with traditional media advertising (network and spot commercials, billboard, print and newspaper), this medium is very inexpensive. A single spot will run 48 times per day (an average of 1,440 times per month) in each of 19 locations. Although rates vary by location, local advertisers pay approximately 83 cents for each spot broadcast, while advertisers that purchase all 19 sites pay only 50 cents per spot, with airtime totaling over 27,000 spots per month.

Advertisers also benefit from the network's ability to capture data. The network system is equipped with a discreet digital camera that records consumer activity by date and time. This technology component makes it possible for advertisers to view and assess consumer interest in real time. Given a four-digit access code, advertisers log in to On Sight Media's website and retrieve data from each mall instantly. This feature provides the advertiser with the data necessary for evaluating consumer interest and customer demographics.

Future plans As On Sight Media rolls out the system to additional sites, plans are to test an interactive component. Wish Mall Network's goal is to do for malls what CNN did for airports, with an innovative addition - interactivity. PlasmaTouch, a 40-inch flat screen with patented, touch-screen technology, makes it possible for consumers to interact with advertisements and/or programming. This component gives advertisers the flexibility and power to promote a brand or product in a new and different way.

By touching the screen, the consumer can retrieve a mall directory with specific directions that lead the customer to the advertiser's retail store or a store within the mall where the product can be purchased. Consumers can also have bar-coded coupons dispensed for redemption at the retailer within the mall, or locally. In addition, advertisers can provide consumers with a broad range of information and services, giving consumers the power to make well-informed purchases without the assistance of a salesperson. Although this system is costly to install, it is relatively inexpensive to maintain, in that updates to the program can be made via remote access for frequent product and/or price changes.

By giving consumers touch-screen access to a wealth of information quickly and easily, they are able to make well-informed product purchases independent of a salesperson. On Sight Media recently deployed interactive systems in several Wal-Mart stores to boost video camera sales. The unit not only reduced the number of sales personnel in each store's electronics department, but Wal-Mart also reported increased camera sales by as much as 50% in some stores.

Plans to deploy Wish Mall Network in airports, train stations, college campuses and office buildings make it possible for a retailer to reach a target consumer in remote locations without incurring the high cost of overhead. As for consumers, they will find that shopping on the network is convenient, quick and easy - a simple swipe of the credit card closes the sale.