Dean Wilson, UK MD at Active International, says if cinema is to become bigger than a 2% medium, Digital Cinema Media and Pearl & Dean need to make sure the digital strategy meets advertiser’s requirements...
1946 - the year that started with the Emperor Hirohito
announcing he wasn’t a god after all, and ended with
President Truman officially proclaiming the end of World
War 2 - was indeed a wonderful year for cinema in the UK.
Admissions peaked at 1.64 billion a year, an average of 36
visits per year per person. In terms of popularity and bringing
people together you might say cinema may have been the
original social media.
Fast forward 64 years to 2010, and cinema admissions
totalled just 169.2 million. Whilst we now watch an
incredible 81 films per person per year, cinema is just one
platform among many including DVD, free to air and paid
television, online and mobile where we can do so. Therefore
what is cinema’s secret weapon in the new world order?
Their answer is digital. Good old ‘digital’, the answer to
seemingly everything in the media world, but what can it do
for this much loved industry?
It is hoped that digital will be the second coming for cinema,
the first witnessed in Milton Keynes in 1984 with the opening
of the UK’s first multiplex. What indeed does that ‘second
coming’ look like? Firstly, as a cinema-goer, it means less
strobing and more pixels for your popcorn, plus 3D and live
sport such as the Ashes on the big screen. For advertisers it
means the death of 35mm and the beginning of the flexibility
they have been calling for in order to fully exploit the power
of the medium.
So sitting here in the summer of 2011 the number of digital
screens in the UK has exploded (not literally!) to be 50% of
all screens, with an aspiration of a near 70% conversion by
the end of 2011. The driver for the digital switchover is
clearly consumer demand, fuelled by higher expectations
due to huge improvement of the in-home viewing experience,
and from an insatiable appetite for digital box office successes
For example Toy Story 3 was the number one film in 2010
with over 72% of all box office takings from the 3D
screenings. It seems even the spectacle of being made to
look like Austin Powers by the glasses can’t keep people
away! If Toy Story wasn’t your thing there were another 27
3D films to choose from. While this accounts for only 5% of
the 557 releases across the year, it equated to a staggering
24% of total UK box office takings. Compare this to just 0.4%
two years earlier and you can see there maybe some truth to
the rumour that Hollywood is shutting shop for 35mm by the
end of 2012. With a whole backlog of films at the ready, 2012
looks set to be an Olympic (tenuous link) year for cinema
with the big guns George Lucas and James Cameron giving
Star Wars Episode 1 and Titanic the 3D treatment
However, it is important not to see digital as just a 3D
experience. A recent but rapidly growing area that digital
enables is ‘alternative content’, such as sport, music,
theatre and even gaming.
In 2010 revenues from the 54 Corporate trade is coming of
age. No longer the poor relation in the media world, it’s set to
prosper in these difficult economic times.
Why? Well, media agencies and brands are starting to see
how these businesses can effectively boost their media and
marketing campaigns by unlocking value from
underperforming assets – an increasingly important task
amid budget cuts in a tough trading climate.With the
evolution of corporate trade the issue for media agencies is
struggling to understand what their strategy should be. So I
would like to put the record straight about the choices
If you are a global media agency with a huge client base at
your disposal, such as Interpublic; having an in-house
corporate trade division, as they do, could be an attractive
option. Those tempted to set up such a division should be
aware that this is the most high risk approach in terms of cost
of investment. Sourcing experienced staff with skill sets alien
to the normal agency requirements will not be easy or cheap.
There’s also the issue of conflict of interest with this
approach that potentially limits the scale and scope of the
in-house opportunity. After all, media agencies that are not
part of the group will be worried about confidentiality and
conflicts of interest.
Working with an independent corporate trade business is
more commonplace. Media agencies can work with them in
an exclusive relationship to handle all their corporate trade
work, meaning they operate with a brand they trust.
However, they must also remember that corporate trade
companies have different strengths and weaknesses. This
could potentially restrict the agency’s ability to offer the best
solution in the market and deliver one that meets the needs
‘Alternative Content’ screenings totalled £7.9 million in
comparison to just £200,000 in 2004. This is a 39 fold
increase in seven years, which is not a bad return in this
current climate. For sports fans like myself watching the
Ashes or the rugby at a cinema may not be my first choice-or
maybe it is if a rerun of Morse is the alternative at home - but
not a bad second, and often cheaper as a single event.
So, the benefits to the consumer are clear: more choice,
more often and more formats; but what about the
For advertisers cinema’s place on the media plan is secured
by the impact and engagement it delivers, plus the
desirability of the audience it attracts. For fickle and
elusive 15-24 year olds cinema is still the most popular
way to consume films. Despite a multi-platform
offering cinema is still the ultimate appointment to view,
planned in advance, anticipated, and paid for. Even
in the age of emerging platforms and a digital savvy
youth almost 50% of 15-24 year olds visit the cinema
once a month or more. This was something Orange
recognised early on with their hugely successful
Orange Wednesdays, which now accounts for 13.2%
of total weekly box office takings.
If digital is to be cinema’s second coming, then not
only is the role of the content and the releases very
important - and they seem to be stepping up to the
mark - but equally how well the sales houses
commercialise these opportunities. In the paid, owned
and earned communications world we live in this
commercial success will determine whether digital will
future proof cinema. From my point of view the key to
this commercial success must be flexibility. Cinema
revenue grew to £207 million in 2010, but its historic
analogue inflexibility has shown in its slowdown in
revenue growth in the face of the new world order.
With margins being squeezed in all entertainment
industries, the advertising revenue for cinema owners
such as Odeon, Vue and Cineworld is more important
than ever. If cinema is to become bigger than a 2%
medium, Digital Cinema Media and Pearl & Dean need
to make sure the digital strategy meets advertiser’s
requirements. This means offering flexibility such as
short term packages, day parts, multi-copy
propositions and easier cheaper production.
If the sales teams get the sell right along with the
content creators use of digital, then cinema has
the potential to go to infinity and beyond.
Sources: BFI/CAA Rentrak, BFI Statistical
yearbook, Rentrak EDI, CAA Film
Monitor, UK Film Council, Harris
Interactive and CAA Forecasts