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Advertising at the Movies

With cinema advertising, you can reach a captive audience--and make your marketing message the feature presentation.
March 1, 2005
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/76280

What's the fastest-growing advertising medium on the block? It's not the internet. It's cinema advertising, and it's becoming the hot, new tool for advertisers nationwide. While major players including Levi's, Nike and Sony are taking their campaigns to the silver screen, small businesses can also benefit from reaching this affluent, captive audience of moviegoers--without taking a major bite out of their budgets.

Although cinema advertising is still a relatively small share of total U.S. ad spending, it's projected to double in size from about $470 million in 2004 to more than $1 billion in 2008, according to communications industry forecast estimates from media merchant bank Veronis Suhler Stevenson. And what do moviegoers think of this change? Consumer studies by Arbitron in 2002 and 2003 found that more than two-thirds of adults and about 7 out of 10 teens don't mind ads played before a movie. In fact, adults who frequent the theater monthly arrive an average of 19 minutes early and are exposed to a range of marketing media, including video programming in the lobby, posters, counter cards, coupons and even advertising on popcorn bags.

Reach a Desirable Audience

Arbitron studies reveal that moviegoers are highly educated and are more likely to have household incomes above $75,000. The largest percentage of viewers is between 18 and 49 years old, according to Mediamark Research. And Scarborough Research reports that frequent moviegoers are much more likely to invest their money in automobiles, financial services, entertainment technology, telecommunications and travel than the national average. For example, moviegoers are 85 percent more likely to pay $35,000 or more for a car, and frequent moviegoers are 50 percent more likely to spend $150 or more on their cell phone bills.

Couple this with the high ad recall rates for those exposed to theater advertising, and it's easy to see why entrepreneurs are choosing to advertise in cinemas. Moviegoers remember advertising messages as much as five to six times better than TV viewers, according to studies conducted by RoperASW and Nielsen Media Research for Regal CineMedia and the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau.

Choose Slides or Video

There are several cinema ad formats to choose from. Screenvision, the largest national network, with exclusive access to 14,000 screens in several major theater chains, offers cinema spots, still image advertising (analog or digital slides) and in-theater promotional opportunities.

The nation's largest movie chain, Knoxville, Tennessee-based Regal Entertainment Group, has eliminated most slide advertising and invested $75 million to create a digital network. Now, on nearly 5,300 of Regal's screens, moviegoers view The 2wenty, short-form entertainment segments interspersed with ads to comprise a 20-minute digital pre-show. Small-business advertisers don't need to come equipped with their own spots, however. Tom Reilly, vice president of regional sales for Denver-based Regal CineMedia, says his company's production partner, Thought Equity, can provide small-business advertisers with big-screen spots for as little as $500.

Place a Low-Cost, High-Reach Campaign

Whether you choose slides or video (called rolling stock), the bottom line is that cinema advertising is just plain affordable. You can make a national, regional or local buy. Each theater has multiple screens, and for regional advertisers, for example, the cost per 15-second spot with a minimum buy of four weeks is $25 per screen, per week. So suppose you owned an internet cafe and you chose to advertise at the six-screen theater closest to your location. Your cost would be just $150 per week, not including production. If your internet cafe had multiple locations, you'd simply add more theaters and screens.

Here's a final tip: For best results, run your spot for eight weeks or more to maximize your reach, since the audience changes with each movie. It's a great, low-cost way to communicate with a high-quality audience, no matter how large or small your market area.