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Ad Week reports that Walmart is rolling out a new and improved version of its in-store television system, dubbed “Walmart Smart Network,” to 300 supercenters in time for the end-of-year holidays. By 2010, the retailer expects the system to be on 27,000 screens.

According to the story, “the new network will be powered by Internet Protocol Television, allowing content and advertising to be monitored and controlled down to a single screen … (and) is the result of two years and $10 million in research and development to find the ideal placement of screens and optimal programming to engage consumers.”

According to the story in the Financial Times, “Wal-Mart's programme was developed with $10m of funding from its main advertisers, and is part of a broad push in retail to develop ways of measuring the impact of in-store messages, such as ‘gaze-tracking’ devices and surveillance cameras that track shoppers' movements. Consumer goods companies are increasingly interested in attracting customers with brand messages that reach them as they shop, as traditional advertising on TV and in newspapers declines.”

"We've built a network tailored to the way consumers shop our stores, delivering helpful, custom content closest to the point of decision that helps them shop smarter," Stephen Quinn, Walmart’s chief marketing officer, tells Ad Week. "The Smart Network is intelligent too, because every screen and every message has a purpose and we will be analyzing point-of-sale data on an ongoing basis to deliver a shopper-centric communications platform."

KC's View:
This kind of targeted marketing, taken to the store an even department level, has the potential of being a real sea-change in how retailers and advertisers reach out to shoppers. It is just one step in a much longer journey…but an important one that is yet another marker in the gradual and yet inevitable decline of mass media.