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What the Return of Cinema Means For Advertisers


LBB speaks to Pearl & Dean, VCCP and Jungle Studios to explore the incredible impact that cinema advertising can hold, and how brands and marketers can benefit

What the Return of Cinema Means For Advertisers

From the latest James Bond in No Time To Die to Marvel Studios’ Eternals and sci-fi adventure Dune, the cinema is showing great signs of a big return. And with the return of film, comes the return of the cinema ad - something that consumers react far more positively to than other forms of advertising, as reported in 2020 research undertaken by Kantar.

In their study, consumers reported finding cinema advertising ‘fun and entertaining’ and ’good quality’ compared to other formats. They also said that cinema ads avoid some of the common advertising pitfalls of being ‘too intrusive’ and ‘dull’ with ‘excessive ad volume’.

Looking at the data, it is no surprise then that advertisers have flocked back to cinema in order to take advantage of its impressive offerings. In fact, according to data from Digital Cinema Media (DCM), advertiser demand for Bond was extremely high, with a record number of forward bookings and brands looking to take advantage of the commercial opportunities associated with the film.

With cinema preparing to bounce back after the effects of the pandemic, and audience appetite for film higher than ever, what can brands and marketers be doing in order to capture audience attention and make an impact? How do you craft an ad that matches the epic experience and quality of cinema?

To find out, LBB’s Sunna Coleman speaks to Pearl & Dean’s Catherine Ferguson (Group Head) and Cristina Duffy (Group Head and Film Specialist), VCCP Media’s Simon Jenkins (Joint Chief Strategy Officer) and Sam Oates (Senior Broadcast Manager), and Jungle Studios’ Ben Leeves (Creative Director) and Alex Wilson-Thame (Sound Designer).

LBB> Cinema is making a big return, with plenty of blockbusters hitting our screens. How have you seen marketers responding to this? 

Catherine Ferguson, Group Head, Pearl & Dean> In my 10 years at Pearl & Dean I’ve never known us to have so many campaigns on air at once – our brand count in October was huge! No Time To Die has been pivotal for attracting the 45+ audiences back to cinema, the demographic who have been the slowest to return since lockdown ended. In fact, data from Odeon reveals that 50% of audiences have cited Bond as their first cinematic experience post lockdown. 

Simon Jenkins, Joint Chief Strategy Officer, VCCP Media> No Time To Die was undoubtedly a big moment for the industry – selling out well in advance of air date, and setting new box office records for opening weekends. This was a big reminder to the marketing world about the role cinema can still play on advertiser’s plans when they’re producing the best content.
Alex Wilson-Thame, Sound Designer, Jungle> As soon as cinemas reopened, we saw an uptake in both cinema commercial and trailer bookings, and even more so now there are more films being released and audience confidence and attendance has risen.

LBB> Research has shown that consumers are more positive about the adverts at the cinema - why do you think this is?

Cristina Duffy, Group Head and Film Specialist, Pearl & Dean> Pearl & Dean commissioned a study called The Happiness Project, which examined how cinema impacted viewers’ moods. It focused on how positivity and stress-free environments make brand messaging resonate so much more. People craving shared experiences means the cinema is still such a treat, especially in post-Covid times. 

Catherine, Pearl & Dean> The cinema is a media sanctuary where you can properly switch off from all the noise and the online world especially. It provides a rare opportunity to slow down, relax and immerse yourself in great storytelling and escapism, which we need more than ever. For this reason, cinema goers arrive at the cinema in a positive frame of mind and that’s why they are so embracing of the advertising as part of the cinema experience, in fact 80% of people say they make sure they are seated before anything is shown on screen (Film Audience Measurement and Evaluation, 2019/2020). 

Unlike other forms of advertising such as TV and social, there are zero distractions in cinema so viewers are more receptive to the advertising and likely to remember it. For example, cinema is six times more effective than YouTube at generating unprompted ad recall and 15 times more powerful than Facebook at boosting brand preference (Brand Benefits Study, 2018). So there is an opportunity right there for brands to capitalise on.

Simon, VCCP Media> We’re living in a world where consumers are connected by social media, where creative teams are increasingly building advertising campaigns to create consumer reaction and unlock earned media. Moreover, ‘attention’ seems to be the hot currency in advertising right now. The simple theory; media is worth more if it commands more consumer attention. Surely, cinema is unbeatable in this respect. If ever a medium was built to win in the ‘attention economy’, it must be cinema. This should provide the industry a great marketing opportunity for 2022.

Sam Oates, Senior Broadcast Manager, VCCP Media> No other form of advertising beats the rich AV experience that cinema can deliver. This is heightened if the content that is being delivered has been deliberately built for a big screen. Plus, cinema now comes with the added benefit of physical / social experience - something that we appreciate more than ever, following Covid.

Alex, Jungle> I think the positive reception is all down to consumers being in the correct mindset for receiving audio and visual stimuli. Just being at the cinema, there is anticipation and excitement for the film to begin - commercials playing before a film catches people in prime excitement, so you are more likely to evoke memory recall and engagement.

LBB> What do brands need to consider when planning for a cinema ad?

Cristina, Pearl & Dean> Cinema provides an optimal, dream-like scenario for advertisers where they have more creative freedom and create long-form cinematic content showcased on a huge screen with surround sound. Brands should also think beyond the screen though, the average dwell time in foyers is 17 minutes so there are many opportunities for brands to integrate into that via experiential stunts or sampling in the foyer. 

A bespoke partnership creates added value for both the brand and consumer. For example, a free product sample of a luxury ice cream in the cinema environment is going to hit different to receiving a sample at a train station whilst you’re on the go. 

Catherine, Pearl & Dean> The big screen deserves big ideas! Brands should regard the cinema like a stage and put on a show for the audience. You want to make your creative as bespoke to cinema or relevant to film as possible. Ultimately, I think if a brand can augment their cinema ad to reference cinema in some way it will feel more personalised to the audience and enhance their experience of the advertising reel.

Simon, VCCP Media> Just like any other media channel, there needs to be a really clear role for cinema advertising on the communications plan. Cinema is an expensive channel on a CPT basis, compared to other paid media, but it also brings lots of unique benefits. Such benefits include regional precision and the ability to engage certain audiences, notably hard-to-reach younger segments. Crucially, cinema brings impact to the plan, which makes it great for launches, or for brands who want to grab attention and make a statement.
Increasingly, brands should also think about the wider immersive commercial opportunities (beyond the big screen) that cinema offers. Few other media offer such a rich 360 degree consumer experience.

Sam, VCCP Media> High production quality is highly recommended to maximise on your media investment. That includes everything from a visual solution which will stand-up on a big screen, to the need to consider sound design to truly maximise the benefits of the ultimate viewing environment. 

LBB> Ben and Alex, how is the craft of cinema mixing different for cinema ads compared to TV/radio ads?

Ben Leeves, Creative Director, Jungle> If a brand is purely producing a cinema only mix, it's really worth thinking about how you can use the volumes and power to bring another level to the ad. You have a captive audience, a big screen and lots of speakers! Mixing for cinema is a much more immersive experience. You should play with the relationship of the space and volumes, subs and surrounds.

Alex, Jungle> When mixing for cinema it enables a whole new level of dynamism and depth, not being restricted to just ‘left and right’, it really allows you to expand your mix in new ways and give clarity to some elements that could get lost in your standard TV mix. 

With formats from 5.1 up to even more immersive formats such as Dolby Atmos or DTS-X you can really hone the position of audio elements to give the viewer a more engaging experience. Plus it's lovely knowing the audience will be watching the content in a proper environment, with proper speakers and level - rather than patiently waiting for that five second skip button to appear.

LBB> Catherine and Cristina, what important place does cinema advertising hold in the wider media landscape?

Catherine, Pearl & Dean> Cinema is the original social media and we are all social beings at the end of the day. We belong together and cinema creates a rare space for that to occur and for people to have a collective, shared experience. 

Cinema is eight times more impactful than TV in that it’s more memorable and recalled more than any other AV media. Strong recall means cinema advertising can drive brand conversations. Cinema generates strong word of mouth as 1 in 5 frequent cinema goers are conversation catalysts. 

Cristina, Pearl and Dean> Cinema is a traditional medium and remains popular for audiences who return time and time again. Even with the introduction of TV and digital streaming, cinema has maintained its relevance and we still engage with it in the same way as we did 70 years ago. It’s got a unique nostalgia for people, who can remember going to the cinema as a child with their parents, or to see their first film with friends or on a date. It holds a significant emotional value in our lives, transcends age groups and that is what gives it such an important place in the media landscape for advertisers. 

LBB> What cinema ads have you personally enjoyed and why?

Cristina, Pearl & Dean> One of my all time favourites were the Orange adverts in the early 2000s. They had the gold spot in the ad reel and really made the most of this heightened positioning. When you went to the cinema, you always saw a different one, it was bespoke. A telecoms brand owning the turn off your phone message was iconic. 

Catherine, Pearl & Dean> Agent Provocateur’s cinema ad Proof from 2001 featuring Kylie Minogue was quite a ground-breaking cinema ad when it launched and has often been voted the best cinema advert of all time. It’s a great example of how a brand can tailor their creative to the cinema environment as happens when Kylie breaks the fourth wall and directly addresses the men in the audience, making it feel quite cheeky and interactive. 

Ben, Jungle> I’m showing my age, but Barcardi Auntie Beryl from the early 90s has stayed with me. Mainly because it was a cinema only ad, so you only saw it there. I thought the Orange gold spot ads (gold spot, being the last ad right before the film) were fantastic, and I had the chance to mix the original EE Kevin Bacon Gold Spot ads which were great to be involved in.

Alex, Jungle> I am really liking the Green & Blacks commercial - I think visually it is very clever and engaging. Audio wise it has a visceral energy to it that hits you in the face or more specifically your ears - it has the crunchy top end in frequency and it has the booming bass, with a lot of movement. So the full package!

LBB> Have you noticed any trends in cinema advertising this year? Or predictions for 2022? 

Catherine, Pearl & Dean> The market is incredibly short term right now given the ongoing situation with Covid. However, we have noticed more brands looking to be more strategic with how they use cinema, opting for more localised approaches where possible and also exploring how they can innovate on screen creatively ‘beyond the traditional AV spot’.

Cristina, Pearl & Dean> We predict that 2022 will be a very strong year for cinema with the AA forecasting 123% uplift in ad spend. The film slate is so busy already with at least one blockbuster a month. Family and comic book releases are particularly strong. No Time To Die has created a much needed wave of momentum for audiences and brands returning to the big screen and so we expect that to carry through to 2022.

Simon, VCCP Media> Cinema advertising has lots of reasons to be cheerful in 2022, and beyond. The currency of ‘attention’ will continue to be a hot topic. This is likely to signal a return of ‘quality over quantity’ when it comes to selecting publishers for media schedules – and this should stand cinema in excellent stead.

Plus advertiser demand is rapidly returning to the wider marketplace post Covid, and at significant levels. WARC recently reported we are about to see record ad spend in Q4 2021 which, again, must be good news for cinema – typically the first channel to be cut from media plan when budgets are lean. If the picture houses, studios and film distributors can find mutually beneficial ways of working, theatrical releases can be protected, and the slate continues to rebound.

Sam, VCCP Media> The big concern for distributors is the popularity of premium video on demand as studios move straight to in-home subscription platforms for big releases. It looks like the days of the ‘three month theatre exclusives’ are numbered, with many subscribers prepared to pay to watch at home.
Cinema will have plenty of doomsayers, not unlike linear TV, but it’s important to remember that the two years prior to Covid-19 were DCM’s best ever years for total admissions. The ability to watch releases at home will undoubtedly affect the box office figures for theatrical releases, but it could bolster people’s love of the movies generally. 
The industry needs to make the most of this, with more marketing reminding consumers that nothing beats the big screen, and that it’s worth paying the premium for a richer, fuller theatrical experience.

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Jungle Studios, Mon, 15 Nov 2021 12:46:00 GMT