Seeking Out Youth? You Can Find It at the Movies

Movies are where the youngsters are, according to the first results from Nielsen Cinema’s new measurement of moviegoer demographics. Media buyers predict the data on in-theater demos, especially on young males, will encourage more advertisers to tap into what is now a $300 million ad medium in the U.S.

Combined with the “Arbitron Cinema Study” conducted from July 2002 through April—which showed that younger audiences are more receptive to cinema commercials than older viewers [Adweek, May 19]—the Nielsen numbers “help dimensionalize the audience to advertisers” by providing a more complete picture of who is going to the movies, said Susan Nathan, svp, director of media knowledge at Interpublic Group’s Universal McCann in New York.

“[Cinema advertising] was slow to grow because of perceived resistance by consumers,” Nathan said. “But lately, there’s been a critical change, and movie services are now looking to increase their advertising plans.”

Nielsen Cinema, owned by Adweek parent VNU, conducted the research at the request of the Cinema Advertising Council, a group of vendors that represents 95 percent of the more than 25,000 movie screens in the U.S., said Paul Lindstrom, svp of Nielsen Cinema in New York. Working with Nielsen EDI, which measures box-office grosses, Nielsen Cinema tied admissions to various films to a national phone survey it conducted of about 7,500 interviews.

“We’re ending up with solid numbers,” said Lindstrom. “We got a reality check by marrying the two sources of information.”

During the June 27-Sept. 25 period, Nielsen Cinema found that in an “average month,” about 100 million people went to the movies. Of those, 35 percent were adult males, with the elusive group of 18- to 34-year-old males representing 19 percent of the overall total, the largest demographic subset broken out. Males over 55, for instance, represent just 2 percent of the total audience.

From that data, Nielsen Cinema assigned “Gross Cinema Points,” which are similar to gross ratings points in TV in representing the percentage of total attendees delivered to movie advertisers. Males 18-34 again scored highly, at 54.2.

The study showed differences among vendors, too. “I do expect to see a different audience composition over time because of title availability,” said Lindstrom. “Maybe the industry will finally get a handle on seasonality. I don’t know that we’ve had solid numbers data on that.”

Donna Baum, assistant media director at Publicis Groupe’s Starcom in Chicago, which buys in-cinema ads for Leo Burnett’s Army account, said the findings “show us how the numbers relate back to males. That’s encouraging.” She added that with the numbers skewing so hard toward 18- to 34-year-olds, some new, “possibly packaged-goods” advertisers may consider adding movie advertising to their media mix.

“Our research shows that recall is five to seven times greater than a television ad and that moviegoers are light television viewers,” said Todd Siegel, evp, sales and marketing at New York-based Screenvision, which represents 14,000 screens. “The timing of the Nielsen numbers couldn’t be better, given the rash of articles about where the men 18-34 have gone. We’ve got them at the cinema.”