When it comes to new car launches, auto companies are increasingly turning to the silver screen as a primary medium. In April and May, Nissan is returning to cinema advertising with a 60-second showcase of its new 2009 370Z sports car. Also, from Feb. 28 through March, Kia, a steady cinema advertiser since 2005, will use theater screens to launch Soul, its new hatchback.
Print and TV advertisers may be feeling the pain of lost auto ad dollars, but it’s a growing category for cinema. Both Screenvision and National CineMedia, which are running national schedules for Nissan and Kia, expect the auto category to be up in 2009, no small feat in an ailing economy.
“The whole ad category has exploded for us, primarily imports,” said Michael Chico, executive vp, sales and marketing at Screenvision, which will air Nissan’s ad in the premium position right before the movie previews. Even the troubled U.S. automakers are giving cinema a second look, Chico said, “because they have to maintain brand position.”
“We are now part of the media plan,” said Cliff Marks, National CineMedia’s president of sales and marketing, adding that the auto category is “sold out” for the first half of ’09.
Cinema is a core element of Nissan’s marketing for the 370Z. Unlike the marketing for its core models, network TV isn’t even on the Z’s ad GPS—except for targeted sports programming that heavily skews male. “Cinema is the broad-reach medium that we’re leveraging. It’s a core element,” said Chad Jacoby, senior manager of media operations for Nissan. “Cinema is more conducive to a spring and summer launch when TV viewership is down. We’re going where the eyeballs are.”
Meanwhile, Kia plans a traditional TV schedule starting in April, but cinema—because of its big screen, creative flexibility and captive audience—will lead the charge for that flight. “We like being able to introduce the launch with a longer creative version. We feel hamstrung by 30 seconds,” said Tim Chaney, director of marketing communications for Kia Motors America.
Auto advertisers are particularly smitten by cinema’s recall power, which is two to five times more than TV, according to a National CineMedia analysis of data from Nielsen IAG. Last year, for example, the cinema campaign for the Lexus IS F had 75 percent unaided recall.
To get that kind of recall, auto advertisers are investing in creative by producing advertising specifically for the big screen. “It will feel contextually relevant and allow us to incorporate one of our main themes of ‘Make Every Drive Epic’ as an integral part of the story line,” Jacoby said.
Though cinema advertising offers practically unlimited creative flexibility, it also puts pressure on the advertiser to be as memorable as the movies. “People are looking to be entertained, and we can do something different,” said Chaney. “You just can’t throw something up there.”
Continue to next page →