THE CORNER SHOP: AMP Media Partners LLC
Network Gives Clients Airplay At Gas Stations
Courant Staff Writer|
November 28, 2007
An Avon roofer wants more customers, but he can't afford a spot on a
In Rit Petit's world, there's money to be made pairing the rocker and the roofer with a gas station owner who wants more motorists to come inside the station and buy a sandwich or soda.
Petit, 43, is the general manager and one of the founders of AMP Media Partners LLC. The company produces the AMP Radio Network, which is broadcast at 61 gas stations throughout
Pumping gas at a
The gas station was playing Muzak at the time, Petit said, which led him to ponder the idea of mixing music with a few ads for local businesses: "Hungry? Take a right when you leave the station. Joe's Pizza is just three blocks away."
A former gas station owner, Petit was working as an advertising salesman for an AM radio station in
"It was very frustrating to watch how small clients couldn't use radio," Petit said, because of the cost and the inability to target small areas. "Nobody is going to drive 20 miles to visit your dry cleaning store, but they might go there if it's right around the corner from their gas station."
The average consumer visits a gas station once a week and spends four to six minutes at the pump. That's enough time to listen to the Avon roofer's 15-second ad or the
One day two years later, he woke up at 4 a.m. and formulated a plan.
"I spent the next few days trying to come up with reasons why it wouldn't work," he said. "I tried to debunk it, but it kept popping back up."
In 2006, Petit enlisted three partners with business, sales and broadcast experience. Together they invested $500,000 for equipment and the development of a software program that automatically distributes the broadcasts to the designated location. In September 2006, they launched a test version; by last February, they began broadcasting at 13 gas stations.
Station owners who sign up for AMP Radio are considered hosts. They pay nothing for the service, which costs AMP between $1,200 and $2,500 to install.
As hosts, they receive advertising air time and a percentage of the advertising revenue generated at the location.
Profit margins on gas are low, about 5 cents to 7 cents a gallon, station owners say, so the extra money can help keep the pumps going.
"I've written monthly checks for as little as $12. Our best host is getting a check for $600 or $700 a month per station," Petit said.
Larry DeFeo, who owns a Citgo on Route 44 in
DeFeo tried AMP for 90 days. He heard the opposite of what he expected. "The one time it wasn't working for an hour, I had people complain," DeFeo said.
Not everyone is enthralled with the concept. Some gas station customers find piped-in sound irritating or annoying enough that they avoid a station that plays it. To counter the irritation factor, AMP also broadcasts public service announcements; in January, AMP plans to begin broadcasting Amber Alerts.
Under AMP's plan, advertisers can buy a message for one gas station or all 61.
Jules Poirier, an
But Poirier, apparently, is laughing all the way up the roof ladders. "I ask everyone how they heard about me," said Poirier, who also buys ad space on restaurant place mats. "It's been a success, and the cost is pretty cheap."
Each month, for about $200 a station, Poirier receives one minute of advertising an hour. With most stations open 18 hours a day, that translates into more than 2,100 ad spots at each location over 30 days. Retailers can supply their own ads, or they can pay about $100 to have a spot produced by AMP's staff, which includes a professional broadcaster.
Within a few weeks after AMP's launch, Petit discovered that paying for music royalties for well-known tunes was cost-prohibitive, so he turned to local musicians — many of them unsigned. Performers in all styles are invited to submit a 2-minute song, which AMP reviews for content. If it's not offensive, there's a good chance that the artist will receive airplay.
AMP does not pay the musicians, but after a song is played, an AMP announcer gives the artist's name and urges listeners to log on to www.AMPradionetwork.com to find concert dates or where to buy recordings.
Manager Al Maloney, of
"We're trying to get on TV, on radio, and we get on some gas pumps!" Maloney said.
When the ads debuted on AMP, Pitchell's fans began e-mailing him to say, "Hey Jeff, we heard you on the gas pump," Maloney said.
Steve Dunn, of
Finally, a garage band can get airplay at a garage — or, at least, a gas station.
Petit said AMP — which stands for Audio Marketing Promotions — is profitable, but he wouldn't give details. He said he hopes to have AMP Radio playing at 400 gas stations in
Even Petit concedes that AMP Radio is not for everyone.
"We used to take it personally when someone said: 'No way am I going to advertise at a gas station,'" Petit said. "Now I just say thank you and move on to the next potential client."
Copyright © 2007, The Hartford Courant
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