Cinema advertising - Cinema bucks the advertising downturn

With the sector's trade body predicting an overall rise in UK cinema advertising spend this year, Sarah Crawley-Boevey reports on the factors that have led to this stronger market position.

The Cinema Advertising Association predicts the industry will end 2006 1% up on 2005 in advertising spend. This would see the sector with the smallest market share exceed the performance of most other traditional media, including TV.

An exceptionally robust second quarter - up 52.4% year on year - is responsible for the positive year-end prediction. However, the other three quarters will contribute negatively to the overall growth.

One factor in the second-quarter boom was the release of a number of blockbusters, including the much anticipated Da Vinci Code, which brought in a whole raft of advertisers who were attracted to the universal appeal of the film.

The market also benefited from the release of several sequels - Mission Impossible: 3, X-Men 3 and Ice Age 2 and, at the end of the quarter, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest - which are particularly popular with advertisers. "Sequels are a real money-spinner, because people know what they are buying into," says Adam Mills, sales director at Carlton Screen Advertising.

Big impact

In a small sector such as cinema, a few big hikes in individual advertisers' budgets can have a big impact on the sector's performance. "Sky did a lot of advertising of its high-definition television ahead of the World Cup," says Bruce McGowan, head of cinema at ZenithOptimedia.

"They wanted to generate that hype and spent considerably more than they did last year." Orange also clocked up £10.4m of spending with its iconic "film commission board" creative, in the "gold spot".

Changes in audience demographics are also having an impact. The over 34s now easily make up the biggest chunk of audience, whereas 10 years ago, the 15 to 24s dominated.

The change, which includes an increase in young families, has broadened the range of people advertisers can target, and the wider range of films on offer presents a more varied opportunity to tailor a product to an audience.

There is also a tendency towards cinema-solus campaigns, such as a recent one for radio station Xfm. "We always wanted to use an audio-visual media environment for communicating what we do," says Xfm marketing director Richard Mintz.

"By using cinema we were able to use our budget more efficiently. We can place the ad in the areas we cover - Scotland, Manchester and London - and it has a longer shelf life because people will see it less often."

Cinema's advantages

Mike Hope-Milne, sales director at Pearl & Dean, believes the cinema experience is increasingly attractive to advertisers. "In a challenging media climate, cinema is growing, as it is responsive, creative and diverse and can engage with consumers in a unique environment," he says.

Although the cinema ad market will always depend on the type and timing of releases, the medium does have advantages in an era where clients are concerned by consumer ad avoidance. Cinema doesn't suffer from the PVR effect or from viewers making a brew during the commercial break. They also know every member of the audience has paid for that specific viewing experience.

With no particular pattern to cinema admission rates over the past four years - last year they were up on 2004, but down on 2003 - these extraneous factors are increasingly important in the industry's sales argument.

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