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FILLING TANK MAY SOON BE A GAS, VISUALLY

The next time you fill up your gas tank, there might be more to watch than numbers rolling by.

Shell Oil Co. has installed video monitors on top of self-service gasoline pumps at a handful of stations around the country. The 6-inch screens, which resemble those on automatic bank machines, switch on when the gas starts flowing and cut off when it stops.Most advertise products just a few steps away, in the Shell convenience store. But a few stations already have changed the hookup to commercial television.

Andrea Kleopa, a station owner outside Miami, quickly shelved the laser disc of commercials Shell gave her in favor of a satellite dish because her customers "don't want to be bombarded with advertisements." The first week she had the screens, customers caught snippets of the Super Bowl.

"As a joke, some of them said they wanted to see a satellite dish here," Kleopa said Thursday. "So I got one, put on CNN, a travel channel and cartoons, and customers love it." She said it was too soon to determine the video's financial impact on her business.

These days, drivers can pay by credit card at the pump without ever setting foot in the station. Shell started the test program earlier this year with the goal of luring drivers into their stores.

Dee Dee Taylor, a spokeswoman at Shell's Houston headquarters, said the company doesn't mind if station owners replace the ads with other programs.

Al Ries, a marketing strategist in Great Neck, N.Y., said the pump TVs are further proof that "you can't escape the media, I don't care where you are today."

"We have become so addicted to media," Ries said, "that I think any time we are isolated or alone our natural thought is to turn to some medium."