To boost awareness of Johnson & Johnson's Acuvue 2 Colours contact lenses and drive purchases at Wal-Mart Vision Centers, Universal Consulting Group is mounting a summer "retailtainment" effort that allows consumers to test the lenses aboard a 37-foot recreational vehicle.
Beginning Friday, an RV wrapped in images of models wearing the lenses will stop at Wal-Marts in 176 cities in 41 states. Inside the RV, customers can try on sample pairs or use the Eye Web, a computer screen that shows people how they would look with blue, green or violet lenses. Patrons can then visit Wal-Mart Vision Centers for a consultation.
Samples of other Johnson & Johnson brands, such as o.b. tampons and Clean & Clear facial wash, will also be available. The tour will run through March 13.
"A lot of stores like Wal-Mart are looking for additional exciting interactive activities for shoppers—it keeps customers in stores longer," said Jeffrey Frumin, CEO of UCG, an independent event-marketing and promotional agency in Brookline, Mass., whose clients include Coca-Cola, HBO and VH1.
"Our customers enjoy and certainly have embraced retailtainment," said Wal-Mart representative Danette Thompson. "The idea behind retailtainment is pulling together the kind of things that would engage a customer, make them stop a few minutes or slow down. It's designed to make our customers smile and engage them. It's also important to us to design the events so that anybody can participate, whether you're an adult or child."
The effort marks Acuvue's first initiative of this kind outside of college campuses. For the past three years, UCG has arranged promotional tours of campuses for Acuvue 2 Colours. Acuvue, which holds nearly a third of the contact-lens market, competes with Bausch & Lomb and Novartis' CIBA Vision, among others.
Spending for the Wal-Mart effort was not disclosed. Interpublic Group's McCann Erickson in New York handles advertising for Acuvue, which spent about $40 million on measured media last year, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.
Retailtainment is a growing ploy for marketers who increasingly see "that retail has become a medium for attaining a brand message inside a store," said Tom Dowdy, CEO and founder of Omnicom Group's National In-Store, a retail-services provider in Sarasota, Fla., which earlier this year executed a program in Wal-Mart's electronics department for XM Satellite Radio. That effort featured in-store demonstrations touting the breadth of XM's music channels.
Tobe Berkovitz, an associate dean at Bos- ton University's College of Communication, warned that retailtainment, like any other marketing discipline, requires a unique and eye-catching premise to be successful.
"If it's cost effective and it works, and if the consumer is enthralled with it and the retailer manages to sell something, hey, it's a winner," Berkovitz said. "Anything that makes the shopper have a little bit of fun and makes it come alive is good. All that being said, like everything else, the enemy of successful communication is clutter—whoever does it first and well will score, but the consumer will get bored."