ShoWest panel lists cinema ad do's and don't's

LAS VEGAS — Even proponents of onscreen movie advertising say there are definite do’s and don’ts for those interested in tapping into the burgeoning exhibition revenue stream.

Panelists at a ShoWest 2004 session on cinema advertising detailed some of those flash points:

  • Do use some means to measure the consumer impact of onscreen ads.

  • Don’t run just any ad, but do try to entertain moviegoers in a way unique to products’ television campaigns.

  • Do try to target ads, running edgy spots with R-rated or NC-17 films and demo-appropriate ads with PG-rated pics.

“We believe cinema advertising should be engaging, captivating and fun,” said Cliff Marks, marketing prexy at Regal CineMedia, an alternative programming unit of exhibition giant Regal Entertainment.

“It’s got to be more than merely repurposing existing content,” said Michael Dowling, VP business development at Nielsen Cinema, a data service recently established to create viable cinema-advertising metrics.

Matthew Kearney, chief exec at cinema advertising service Screenvision, said onscreen advertising accounted for $300 million in exhibition revenue last year. Though a small sum in contrast to broadcasting advertising, panelists predicted the industry will grow dramatically.

At least for now, most see it as a complement to other media advertising rather than a rival platform. For instance, videogame companies and others aiming at a young male audience can target moviegoing boys, who form a relatively hard-to-reach portion of the television audience, proponents say.

Still, with most of those onstage in the Bally’s hotel theater being ardent backers of the proliferation of onscreen advertising, the absence of any audience interaction in the session resulted in scant discussion of more controversial aspects of cinema advertising.

Those include the timing of onscreen ads: Should they be played before or after the skedded movie showtime? Regal CineMedia presents a 20-minute preshow before lights go down in a theater, but Screenvision — which services the large Loews chain and many others — runs its ads after the advertised start time for a movie, citing demands by national advertisers.

Also, some moviegoers have been disgruntled over the sound level of Regal’s preshow, complaining of a high volume that can make conversation among patrons difficult.

Kearney, who also chairs the Cinema Advertising Council trade group, acknowledged many issues remain in flux in the young advertising segment. But he suggested the onscreen ad medium — long embraced in Europe but relatively untapped domestically — has finally gotten going in earnest in the U.S.

“For one reason or another, I think we can say that cinema advertising has arrived,” he said.

Also Wednesday, the American Cinema Advertising Network announced an agreement with UltraStar Cinemas of San Diego to supply digital projectors for an advertising preshow in UltraStar venues, outfitting 20 screens initially and 61 more within a year.

Equipment will be of a sufficiently high resolution to be used in projecting movies and trailers when desired, officials noted. So far, Regal CineMedia uses digital projectors of a lower-than-movie-quality resolution.

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