Marketers Drawn to the Silver Screen

DETROIT When putting together a media buy for the upcoming crossover, Borrego, Kia’s marketing director Tim Chaney made sure he nailed down some cinema advertising along with a large buy in traditional media.

Chaney couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Last year’s spot for the Rondo crossover produced solid ROI. “We received extremely strong results from the cinema buy,” he said. “It was very effective.”

In fact, cinema advertising is growing at a rate of 15 percent annually, with spending totaling $455 million in 2006., an online resource for the media, advertising and entertainment industries, projects a 17.5 percent growth for the medium this year.

Cinema advertising will broaden this year as National CineMedia and Screenvision — together controlling about 80 percent of the nation’s 38,000 theater screens — venture further into interactive platforms. Both aim at making cinema advertising a part of the regular media mix.

National CineMedia this summer will roll out technology from Brand Experience Labs, New York, that allows audience members to participate in on-screen video in which movement is dictated by physical gestures of the crowd. “It is an engagement sort of technology, like social networking meets advergaming,” said Cliff Marks, National’s CMO and president of sales.

In the next 30 days, Screenvision is preparing to launch a text messaging system for use in theaters, sponsored by “a major advertiser,” a company rep said.

Theaters are becoming such a valuable ad platform that advertisers are securing space up to nine months in advance, said Stu Ballatt, president of the Cinema Advertising Council. “Advertisers are realizing the scarcity of the inventory and from a strategic point, they have to lock it up,” said Ballatt, who is also svp, marketing at Screenvision. “And they are using it not as a temporary activity but as part of their overall marketing plan.”

Auto marketers were among the first to discover the merits of cinema advertising — a captive audience ready to be entertained, with a large screen and surround sound that befits an action-packed car ad. In recent years, however, packaged-goods, insurance and retail companies have followed suit.

Last month, MediaVest, a media agency representing Wal-Mart and Kraft, began talks with both Screenvision and National about moving money from TV to the silver screen.

“Cinema is something we are going after aggressively,” said Norm Chait, an svp at MediaVest. “We don’t know what the numbers are, but there are already dollars coming from traditional prime time and other broadcast channels that are going into video, and video is going to cinema among other things.”

Chait said this year marks “one of our bigger years” in terms ad dollars being spent on cinema. “Our clients are realizing that to follow the consumers it means moving partly from TV to cinema,” he said.

On the creative side, putting together a spot for cinema is liberating, said Simon Needham, co-founder and creative director at Attik, San Francisco, which has created theater spots for Scion and Lexus. Needham said, “It’s like people who come to the theater say, ‘I’m here, entertain me.’ There’s a bigger challenge, and it seems like they expect you to go the extra mile to produce better content.”