How cinema set a new record in media spend

Cinema broke through the one per cent UK display ad spend barrier in the past month, following commercial radio as the “nearly medium come good”. This current success has been a long time coming – 100 years to be precise, but the lessons that we’ve learned along the way mean that this will be the medium to watch well into the next millennium.

Since its lowest point in 1984, cinema has reinvented itself. The advent and impact of multiplexes is well documented. Less well known is the radical change that has occurred in the way cinema sells itself. Airtime used to be sold on a per film basis, which was fine when ET was screening and advertisers understood what they were getting, but not so good for the rest of the year.

Now cinema sells itself around an agreed average reach of its audience.

The Daily Mail is famous for knowing who its readers are. It took the seismic shock of the mid-Eighties to teach cinema the same lesson.

Nowadays, I would challenge any medium to know its market better. Just as Radio Joint Audience Research (Rajar) provided a robust statistical foundation on which commercial radio could establish itself, so too cinema has invested in capturing consumer data.

Every single cinema admission is monitored by Entertainment Data International (EDI), which is a continuous audit, and the Cinema & Video Industry Audience Research (Caviar), which provides detailed audience profiles. This enables our advertisers to target their chosen audience with little or no wastage.

Although the quality and variety of the film product on offer is vastly improved, it is not the one-off blockbuster that pulls in the punters on a regular basis. Rather, it is the whole “experience” of cinema. It starts at the car park, when the audience arrives, and only finishes when they leave two and a half hours later thrilled by big screen visuals and awesome sound quality.

It is this combination of audience and “the experience” that we market to clients today and that has won brands such as Orange, Bella Pasta and continued support from Stella Artois and Levi’s.

This isn’t just the optimism of a salesman. There is long-term investment in cinema infrastructure which few media enjoy. There are 279 screens scheduled to open by the end of the year – the largest number of sites in one year and a 44 per cent increase in the number of screens is projected by the year 2000.

Digital technology, like TV, will shake up cinema, cutting the turn-around time of getting the ads onto film reels (though it is unlikely to lead to position-in-break premium rates for a while). We must seize and embrace these opportunities and ensure marketing in cinema develops to its full potential, which I believe to be well above a one per cent share of total advertising spend in the UK.

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