Box Office Blues: Movie Studios’ Ad Spending Stays Flat

Hollywood’s B-grade box office performance for 1992 didn’t turn in a banner year for Tinseltown ad agencies, either. Studio ad spending was relatively flat, up just 5% on average in all categories of media. The top 10 movie advertisers spent $316.5 million (see chart) on television – their favorite medium – for the first three quarters of 1992, according to just compiled LNA/Arbitron figures. That total was up a skimpy $8 million over outlays for the same period in 1991.
Overall, the year saw movie advertisers spend more cautiously and divvy up dollars among TV, newspaper, outdoor, radio and other media according to tried-and-true formulas.
‘It was a paranoid year because of budgetary restraints,’ said Brian Fox, who heads creative boutique B.D. Fox & Friends Advertising/Santa Monica, Calif. ‘Studios still spent the money, but didn’t spend in risky areas.’ It was not a year for splashy strategies, like the targeted direct mail piece Warner Bros. did a few years ago for Memphis Belle.
Cable advertising continued to gain clout. Studio spending on the top six cable networks hit $15 million for the first half of ’92. In ’91, total movie spending on those networks was $32 million. Since studios spend the heaviest during the final half of the year, the Cable Advertising Bureau boasts that cable ad revenues from the studios could rise at least 10% for the year.
Movie spending for the first half of the year on radio reached $8.5 million, compared to $8 million for the period in 1991. Outdoor was about $5 million for major markets, compared to $4.6 million in 1991.
While dollar figures aren’t recorded for smaller media, movie trailers accounted for about 5% of studio spending, while other areas, including direct mail, made up 30%.
Figures aren’t out for 1992, but the Motion Picture Association of America reports studios spent roughly $10.4 million to market a film in 1992 versus $10.2 million in the previous year.
Some think the conservative approach is right for any economy, not just a recession. ‘One of the problems a movie advertiser has with experimentation (in media) is that each film is a different product,’ said Si Kornblit, evp/worldwide marketing for Universal Pictures. ‘It’s unlike a branded good, where you can say, ‘Let’s try something different in Denver,’ and you don’t risk the brand image. We have to rely on standard media venues, because we’re not going to make a guinea pig of any movie.’
This is the first in a series of articles on entertainment advertising that will appear in the coming months.
1992 Estimated Ad Spending
Through third quarter only (in millions)
Television Spending
Studio Spot Network
Disney $42.7 $22.8
Columbia/Tristar 22.9 37.7
Warner Bros. 25.2 22.1
Universal 14.4 30.4
20th Century Fox 16.5 21.6
Paramount 19.6 10.8
MGM/UA 3.3 7.3
New Line 3.4 6.7
Orion 1.3 3.3
Samuel Goldwyn 2.7 1.7
Source: 1992 LNA/Arbitron Multi-Media Service Be advised that all spot information is based on one week actuals projected over four weeks
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)