There are few things that I hate more than television commercials, yes, even the cute Apple ones.? My disdain for commercials runs so deep that I am more than willing to delay watching any television event so I can record the show on TiVo and then view it advertisement free.? This weekend for example, I was able to watch my alumni, Texas A&M, get destroyed on Saturday and then suffer through my favorite hockey team, the Philadelphia Flyers, fifth consecutive loss (0-3-0-2) that night.? For the Sunday follow-up, I cringed as my Dallas Cowboys got pummeled by the lowly Rams and THEN watched Jake’s World Series dreams come crashing down Sunday night as the Boston Red Sox lost game 7.

All of those disasters were commercial free.? Thank you very much, TiVo.

Despite years of practice,? my TiVo thumb pressing technique can never quite time the jump between commercials and real television.? Most of the time I end up gagging through the final five seconds of the very last commercial in a “pod”.? A “pod” is fancy advertising lingo that defines a commercial segment break.? During the viewing of one of the more tragic sports weekends of my life, I managed to catch the same Circuit City advertisement at the end of multiple pods.

The ad, entitled “Mixed Signals”, is part of a massive effort by Circuit City to right its Titanic from an impending iceberg (said to go bankrupt by Q1 2009).? The advertisement, featuring a woman on an uncomfortable date with a digital camera that is giving her “mixed signals”, highlights the chain’s new campaign to offer “one price” for every product.? Circuit City promises that customers will see the same price for products on its website as they would by visiting any neighborhood store.

Circuit City’s new strategy certainly should make our life here at gap intelligence a bit easier, since our data collection “technically” should be simplified as we now don’t have to visit actual Circuit City locations anymore.? However, tracking retail as long as we have, gap intelligence has a more realistic outlook on how accurate shelf price is versus on-line price – rarely, if ever, are both updated and maintained at the same pace – especially at Circuit City.

What the advertisement showed me, if anything, is how valuable gap intelligence’s pricing information really is.? Circuit City’s “Mixed Signals” describes the confusion customers face when dealing with three different prices for a single product – an advertised price, online price, and in-store price.? However, in reality any given product that we track actually has as many as 13 different price points, all depending on how you view the market and what channel you track.?? For example, the gapJet 123 may carry a price of $99, but promoted with a $20 rebate offered by gap intelligence ($79 net price), and then Circuit City further discounts the price with another $10 instant rebate ($69 net price).? However, Circuit City advertises the gapJET 123 in Atlanta for $69 (after rebates), but in San Diego the very same product is advertised for $99 (before rebates).? Sometimes a retailer will call gap intelligence’s mail-in rebate a “in-store savings”, or bundle the mail-in rebate with its own instant rebate (totaling $30 ), or call the whole thing a temporary price drop.? Confused yet?? To go even further, may list the gapJET 123 for $99 and only shows the discounted price if you add the product to your “shopping cart”.? A break down of the 13 (and there are more variations to contend with when you get into dealers and distributors) follows:

1) List Price – Set by dealers / manufacturers

2) Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price

3) Net Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price (Following Manufacturer Rebates)

4) List Price

5) Shopping Cart Price (Following Rebates & Discounts)

6) E-Commerce Price

7) E-Commerce Shopping Cart Price (Following Rebates & Discounts)

8 ) Retail Shelf Price

9) Retail Net Price after Instant Rebate

10) Retail Net Price after Mail-in Rebate

11) Retail Net Price after Instant Rebate & Mail-In Rebate

12) Advertised Price

13) Regional Advertised Price

To make things even more confusing, pricing, rebates, promotions, and shelf allocations change every single week and there inlies just part of the value gap intelligence brings to our clients.? We visit every retail chain, capture regional advertisements, and collect e-commerce pricing from well over 50 different online resources every week to show in detail the 13 flavors of pricing.? To do so, we have a small army of data collectors and systems in place that capture, process, filter, and display over 500,000 price points and 10,000 advertising placements every single week.? We are confident that our systems are the single most comprehensive and timely resources to monitor this ever complex and rapidly changing retail marketplace.

Three price points?? HA!? Junior Varsity in my book…We’ll give you over 13 every week with a smile on our face.? If I could only get my TiVo thumb to be so accurate….and the Flyers to break this losing streak.