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Store Wars In-store advertising resides at the low end of the industry's glamour scale, accounting for less than $5 billion in annual revenue, with much of that going for the physical cost of making and posting signs. But advocates point out that folks, especially in mass-merchandise outlets, typically enter a store with a category need--bulbs, for example--but no strong brand preference. All things being more or less equal, an attractive sign may help the shopper to see the light. According to data compiled by the Point of Purchase Advertising Institute, in-store advertising rose 5.1 percent in 1996, somewhat less than conventional advertising. But spending in three of the medium's four largest categories--tobacco, automotive and professional services--gained significantly more than that. Financiers are reporting an increase in money-raising requests from outfits seeking to lever new technologies, such as flat-screen video displays or relatively low-cost, high-speed data communications, into the next great thing to carry a marketer's message to the front line: the shopping aisle. That is, after all, where the money meets the merchandise. --Alan Gottesman (westendal pobox.com) is principal of West End Consulting.

THE GOTTESMAN FILE
All of POPAI's 22 industry categories increased spending on in-store media last year, eight of them by more than the industry's average.
..........1995.....1996.....Change
.....Tobacco.....$377.....$406.....7.7%
.....Automotive.....$336.....$358.....6.5%
.....Professional services.....$288.....$332.....15.3%
.....Restaurants.....$278.....$302.....8.6%
.....Candy.....$188.....$206.....9.6%
.....Fresh foods.....$112.....$131.....17.0%
.....Jewelry.....$107.....$113.....5.6%
.....Containerized foods.....$97.....$105.....8.2%
.....Other.....$2,846.....$2,911.....2.3%
.....Total.....$4,629.....$4,864.....5.1%
..........Source: Point of Purchase Advertising Institute. Dollar figures in millions