Silver Screen, Silver Lining: What the Wider Ad Industry Can Learn From the Cinema Experience

Cinema

Serving effective ads which simultaneously enhance viewer experience is a perennial goal of the advertising industry, however in tough times it is often the bottom line that receives all the focus, shuffling consumers down the pecking order. This in turn can raise the risk of customers turning to ad-free subscription services and ad blockers.

Writing exclusively for ExchangeWire, Mark Inskip, CEO – Media Division at Kantar, discusses what lessons from cinema advertising can be applied to other platforms in ensuring memorable and fruitful ads, without compromising user engagement.

We in the ad industry are living in challenging times. Last month’s IPA Bellwether Report showed overall ad spend flatlining, whilst our own DIMENSION report of 1,000 connected consumers in the UK revealed that 55% are completely apathetic about advertising.

But it’s far from bad news across the board. Internet spend continues to rocket, and some spheres of advertising remain very much enjoyed and celebrated. Cinema, in particular, is bucking the trend, with 37% of consumers surveyed for DIMENSION saying they actively enjoy advertising at the cinema. That means an appetite still exists for entertaining brand campaigns, and offers interesting insights for brands and marketers looking to get their advertising ‘right’.

So what makes the big screen so successful, and how we can take those learnings to other platforms and touchpoints?

Make it seamless
Mark Inskip

Mark Inskip, CEO – Media Division, Kantar

Think of the context in which you see cinema ads: plied with popcorn, lights dimming, you know exactly what to expect, when to expect it, and perhaps even how long to expect it for. Indeed, it’s part of the value exchange, in exchange for your ticket, you accept a certain (proportional) amount of advertising.

However, you’d never expect to see the same ad several times, or indeed have your film interrupted at a crucial scene by an irrelevant advert. And yet an enormous 70% of those we surveyed have experienced just that, admitting they’re subjected to the same adverts time and time again. This isn’t just a mild inconvenience, but an issue throughout all platforms and formats. As Video-On-Demand (VOD) grows, for example, we’re seeing more and more broadcasters struggle with the right ratio of ads to content, trying to find a balance between what’s profitable and what’s consumer-friendly. Given repeated negative experiences are damaging to brand reputation, that equilibrium is crucial.

The underlying message here is that context really matters, and that goes beyond just online and video ads. As brands delve deeper into formats like product placement, sponsorship, advertorials and the like, even the more subtle forms of consumer engagement need to be well considered so as not to be jarring.

Ultimately, if we want consumers to move past their apathy and actually engage with ads rather than avoid them, it’s crucial we approach at the right place and time, and the right frequency, so we’re not talking to a brick wall.

Make it entertaining

Audiences are in fact much more receptive than you might think: a significant 48% of consumers do notice ads on platforms they enjoy using, whilst 41% are more likely to believe advertising that appears near another trusted brand. That means platform, placement, and timing are crucial.

Cinema gets this right. From trailers which make your hair stand on end, to full features in 3D, or even space-aged 4D, cinema elevates films to sensory experiences and takes content to the next level. After all, if it didn’t, you’d stay at home.

Of course, every platform has its own strengths, a one-size-fits all approach won’t do. But if brands can get into the right headspace and engage consumers on their terms, providing top-quality entertainment within the right context, whether an innovative format, interactive experience, or by offering actionable information, their campaigns are far more likely to succeed.

Make it tailored

You’d never run an 18+ trailer before the screening of a U-rated film. It might sound simple, but this fairly basic level of tailoring and targeting doesn’t always trickle through to the small screen or the browser – leading to irritated consumers at best and brand safety failures at worst if content ends up in the wrong environment. 61% of the consumers we surveyed actively prefer to see ads relevant to their own interests, but the average experience leaves much to be desired. That means there’s a significant discrepancy between what consumers want and what they’re getting.

A key part of the solution is accurate targeting and measurement. To gain insights on how to create seamless, entertaining, useful advertising, brands need to give up guessing and find out exactly who their audiences are and what makes them tick – on as granular a level as possible. That means harnessing detailed customer data or working with a reliable data partner.

A positive feedback loop driven by insights will lead to exponentially better campaigns. Remember, however, that data use must be responsible; with 54% of consumers objecting to targeting based on their past activity, it’s important the value exchange for consumers is made clear so they feel supported, not surveilled.

Curtain call

Of course, some elements of the big screen experience aren’t easily transported to the home environment, but the message is clear. Producing and serving exciting, entertaining and useful content at the right time, in the right place is key to capturing and keeping eyeballs, and accurate measurement is a key part of making sure we’re going in the right direction.

Getting consumers onside is tough, but in an era where avoiding advertising is perhaps easier than ever, it’s extremely important. Intriguing, delighting and informing is a sure-fire way to neutralise the ongoing impact of adblocking and ad-free subscription services.

Cinema advertising makes the most of its space, creative and audience to deliver gripping content, showing us advertising at its very best. With a little bit of nous, a touch of creative, and top-of-the-class measurement, we can aim to make every ad as good as on the big screen.