BOISE, Idaho — Albertsons is one of the first retailers to use a new technology that gives advertisers good reason to warm up to the frozens department.
The retailer's Dallas/Fort Worth operating area concluded a three-month advertising program in which an invisible coating was affixed to the inside of 150 freezer doors at 75 stores. Each time a freezer door was opened, the coating produced ads for Pictsweet-brand frozen vegetables. The image remained visible for about two minutes after the door was closed.
The designs are transparent, appearing almost like an ice carving, so that the view to the inside is not obscured.
“The concept is very unique,” Carol Roberts, assistant grocery sales manager for Albertsons' Dallas/Fort Worth, told SN. “We've had a lot of good customer response.” Roberts couldn't elaborate.
Roberts especially liked the fact that the ads were on the door, as opposed to the shelf, yet didn't block the view of the food inside.
“It didn't cover up any product,” she said.
Kings Super Markets, Parsippany, N.J., is also using the Visual Ice technology. Ads for the CBS television show “Moonlight” appear each time the freezer door is opened.
“The technology is cutting-edge,” said Kings' category manager Hans Ketels. “It really catches our customers' attention.”
The single-store test, which began in August and was scheduled to end last month, took place in Kings' Fort Lee, N.J., store.
Depending on test results, the retailer may expand it to some of its other 26 units.
Technology like this is needed in the frozens department because the low temperatures and condensation make it difficult for most ads to stay in place, said Ketels.
“Frozens has always been a challenge,” he noted.
That's one of the main reasons why Ron Johnson, Visual Ice Marketing's president and chief executive officer, got involved with the company, which began providing the technology this past March. Johnson has a long history in food retailing, heading such companies as Kash n' Karry, Jitney Jungle and, most recently, Minyard. He left the retail side of the business 18 months ago.
Throughout his years in grocery, Johnson found that frozens were always the most difficult area in which to convey an in-store message.
“For years, I always thought of how we could advertise in frozens without blocking products or having signs curl up or fall into the vents,” he said.
Visual Ice Marketing uses patented nanotechnology to create a thin, temperature-sensitive coating for refrigerator or freezer doors. The coating is applied in the form of a promotional design or logo, which is “invisible” until a customer opens the door and the temperature changes. Then, it turns to an “ice” image.
The images are relatively easy to put in place.
“The installation process is simple after a brief training session,” said Johnson. “[Visual Ice] can do it, or the retailer can do it, simply by following instructions.”
The time is right for Visual Ice due to the nature of the frozens department, Johnson said. That's because years ago, frozen food was merchandised mostly in open cases and easily stood out. But as the industry focused on energy conservation and moved to doors instead of open cases, product presentation suffered, he said.
Visual Ice has been used or tested by about 100 retailers, including Food Emporium, Ralphs and Wal-Mart, which is running a single-store test with General Mills in the frozen pizza category.
Retailers do not share in the revenue derived from these ads.
Johnson said Visual Ice is valuable because it draws much-needed attention to frozens doors, while creating in-store excitement.
Pictsweet Co., Bells, Tenn., has used static clings, but always wanted an ad that wouldn't obscure product merchandised behind frozens doors.
That's why it tested Visual Ice ads in Albertsons.
The ads promoted the company's new “Steamers,” frozen vegetables that can be steamed in the bag.
Pictsweet is now considering using the ad vehicle in other markets, according to Mark Jones, regional sales manager. “The technology provides high visibility of our ads,” he said.
Jones' only concern with Visual Ice is that the ads only appear when the door is opened. Visual Ice is addressing that by exploring a new mechanism that would blow out hot air on a timed basis, thereby producing the ads more frequently.