Americans may channel-surf through the ads or TiVo them away at home, but when they see television ads in the mall, they eat it up. At least that’s what a joint venture between Simon Property Group and French marketing giant Publicis Groupe found in a trial of a new HDTV network for mall common areas. The two companies have created OnSpot Digital Network, a Chicago-based company to bring high definition ads, entertainment and other content to 2,000 big screens in 50 Simon malls by the end of this summer.

The ambitious rollout follows a year-long test in Simon’s 2 million sq. ft. Roosevelt Field Mall on Long Island, N.Y. Simon and Publicis hired international media research firm Arbitron to measure consumer reaction and recall of major brands advertised. The results: Twice as many Roosevelt Field mall shoppers recalled diet soda and fine jewelry ads than consumers who had seen the same spots on their home televisions.

“The world of advertising is questioning the cost and effectiveness of the 30-second television spot and is looking for alternatives,” says Stewart Stockdale, chief marketing officer at Simon and co-chairman of OnSpot Digital Network. “So to say that people are recalling the OnSpot ads at a significantly higher level than network TV, [means] we have a very credible medium.”

OnSpot is charging $350,000 a month for a 30-second spot to air on all 2,000 screens in the 50 malls, which host about 500 million visitors annually, and in May announced that Coca-Cola has committed to advertising on the network. Properties involved in the initial rollout include Laguna Hills Mall in California, Lincolnwood Town Center near Chicago, and Menlo Park Mall in New Jersey.

Advertising in malls — even digital advertising — is hardly new, however, and harkens to the dot-com boom when real estate companies banded together to invest in companies that were pioneering out-of-home video messaging. OnSpot differs significantly from those efforts, Stockdale contends. “There is quite a bit of media in malls,” he says. “But running a channel across a network of malls on a national basis is completely new.”