One More Place You Can't Escape Ads

ADS HAVE INVADED MOVIE theaters for years; now they're coming to gas stations. Gilbarco, one of the leading gas-pump makers, is experimenting with 6-inch screens, currently installed at 27 fill-up islands nationwide, beaming commercials at nozzle-gripping motorists.

Mostly, these captive audiences are being pitched stuff the station sells, from candy bars to car washes. After the ads, a menu of merchandise pops up on the screen for you to enter your selection. You pay at the pump with a credit card for the gas and other goods.

Gilbarco, a unit of Britain's General Electric PLC, has no reports of driver disgruntlement at getting bombarded by ads. But that may change in a few months when the company rolls out the videos nationally, hoping for deals with the major oil companies. Remember the booing that greeted the first ads to hit movie screens?

Stations with these gizmos don't have to show ads. Andrea Kleopa has been treating customers at her Shell station in Miami to sports programs and CNN at the pump. However, since it costs $31,000 for a video-equipped pump (vs. $12,500 for a regular one), Gilbarco thinks most owners will stick to commercials.

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