The Value of Cinema Advertising: NCM's Andy England engages with brands and exhibitors

Cinemas Features

“Our goal at NCM is to make it easy for advertisers to do business with us and, by extension, with our circuit partners and affiliates.” Now that Andy England has taken the reins as chief executive officer of National CineMedia, he has set the additional objective of profitable growth for both NCM shareholders and theatre affiliates. “I have inherited a business and a team that are in great shape. Job number one is to drive our core business. Job number two is to build strong, adjacent product offerings.”

As NCM continues to evolve “with those tasks in mind,” England can rely on what he calls a strong foundation built by Kurt C. Hall, past president, chairman, CEO and company co-founder in 2005. “Kurt did a great job building the business,” England affirms. “He was terrific in the transition, and remains a consultant to myself and the NCM board. He is a wealth of knowledge on the business and the circuits, and I’ll continue to tap into that valuable resource.”

Thanks to ten-plus years of exceptional work–not just by Hall and NCM, but also by the other companies featured in our special section–cinema advertising is in good shape. In an increasingly fragmented media industry, movie theatres offer some very strong alternatives, England assures. “The real driver of fragmentation in the media industry is the Millennial generation,” he elaborates. “While Millennials do not consume broadcast TV, cable TV or radio the way their parents or grandparents did, they still want to see first-run movies in the movie theatre. That’s why cinema advertising is a compelling offering to advertisers. From a creative and operating perspective, we have a great offering in ‘FirstLook’ and a powerful digital distribution system. From a selling point-of-view, we have seasoned national sales professionals in our New York, Chicago and Los Angeles offices plus a 200-strong regional team who can speak the media language of national advertisers as well as local buyers.”

And what do advertisers and buyers tell them? “Data is the drumbeat of the advertising industry right now,” he observes. “Advertisers want to understand the audience they are buying and target their core demographic more precisely. Through data relationships with big players like Fandango and Movio, as well as our own NCM data and beaconing, we now have even better audience measurements and analytics to give buyers what they need. We have also entered the spot TV market through the STRATA buying system at hundreds of ad agencies across the country, which allows cinema to be bought out of that pool of advertising dollars for the first time. Plus, by declaring the theatres in our network to be ‘politics-free zones,’ we have made advertising at the movies an especially attractive option in an election year.”

Movie theatres must have been an attractive option to England as well, having joined from the consumer product side at the MillerCoors brewing venture. Could the fact that many of them offer beer these days have anything to do the career switch? “I joined National CineMedia because I saw a strong, Millennial-driven media business with opportunities for growth,” he responds, addressing the business at hand first and then the fun second. “I have been a fan of the movies from an early age and still love the sociability and impact of the big-screen experience today. The fact that I can drink beer too…does it get any better than this?!”

Looking back at that early age, England fondly recalls “going to my first outdoor movie theatre in Greece as a teenager… The evenings were warm, the movies were in English, and they had some interesting ‘local’ snacks.”

Moving on to today’s favorite cinema experiences , he recently went to the Everyman in London, Walton-on-Thames to be specific, “which had just the right combination of small size, recliner seats and a good ale.” England also just loves “the combination of milk duds and popcorn! I’ll typically wash them down with a Dasani, but sometimes Sprite calls to me.” For films, “Butch Cassidy and anything Bourne or Bond” are favorites. “If it starts with ‘B’ it’ll probably grab my attention!”

While at MillerCoors, cinema ads had already grabbed England’s attention as well. “The media industry is very familiar to me, as I have been a big spender–on behalf of my prior employers–for a long time,” he confirms. “I did approve our overall media plan, which included spending with National CineMedia, particularly for REDD’s Apple Ale. We typically ran creative that was developed for broad, premium video usage and produced in high-definition. If you are familiar with the REDD’s campaign, the sight of someone getting hit with an apple on the big screen is special.” While England “also spent time working on brand integrations with the studios…the exhibition side of the business is new for me,” he admits. “I am on a healthy learning curve. What I have found so far is great people and a really fun industry.”

He says the same about past collaborations with Twentieth Century Fox. “We had a big tie-in with Vince Vaughn’s The Internship, where we held a nationwide competition finding interns for Miller Lite.” The winners (see our August 2013 “Cinemarketing” report) were able to enjoy “a dream internship with the brewery–visiting the Dallas Cowboys, touring a brewery, meeting Brad Keselowski, etc. and ending at the film’s premiere. Naturally, there were lots of MillerCoors products in the movie,” England adds. “We also cross-promoted Prometheus by having Ridley Scott produce a commercial for the Coors Light Aluminum Pint which ran nationally.”

How does it feel to be selling media now instead of buying the same to sell beer? “It feels great!” NCM has “a great proposition to sell,” he reasons. “I know from experience how hard it is to reach Millennials, and we have those very people walking into our circuit partners’ theatres every day, ready to be entertained and engaged. We have Millennials all over our network of movie theatres,” his five-second pitch to advertisers goes. “Would you like to talk to them?”

National CineMedia’s movie theatres can count on NCM too, for help with keeping their competitive advantage. “We are committed to being a valuable and growing piece of each of our partner exhibitors’ businesses. The quality of our ‘FirstLook’ preshow, the reach of our national network, and the strength of our relationships with major advertisers are a real advantage in the marketplace. I am convinced we can add additional value to any exhibitor, and I welcome those discussions.”

Now and going forward. England “absolutely” concurs that years from now, we will still be going to the movies. “The best measure of the future is to look at the behavior of young people. All the research I have seen points to Millennials’ love of first-run movies, their enjoyment of the sociability of the movie theatre, and their appreciation of the improvements being made to the experience by the exhibitors. The movie theatre experience will endure.” On a personal note, “there’s nothing more fun than winning in an exciting industry. I am privileged to lead the best team in a great industry. What’s not to love?”

Recent NCM Campaigns

HP Star Wars Experience Lobby Program

HP promoted its HP Star Wars™ Special Edition Notebook by directly interacting with Star Wars fans in select movie theatre lobbies in nine key markets across the country including New York, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Dallas, Washington DC and Houston, December 2015 through Jan. 3, 2016. The HPStar Wars Experience Lobby Program, created in conjunction with National CineMedia, Infinity Marketing and Omnicom Media Group featured a special Star Wars-themed 10’x10’ capture module booth, including a green screen and camera with digital backdrop design options, to create unique Star Wars Cinemagraph animations. Here’s how it worked:

Once inside the theater lobby, moviegoers visited the HPStar Wars Experience booth and worked with an HP brand ambassador to select a Star Wars Cinemagraph option—each animated Star Wars Cinemagraph scene contained the moviegoer, exclusive Star Wars backgrounds, Star Wars character overlays and sound combinations.

The HP brand ambassador then captured the moviegoer in front of the green screen, and the moviegoer could then add the final Star Wars special effects to his/her Cinemagraph. HP later sent the completed Star Wars Cinemagraph animation to the moviegoer via e-mail to enjoy and share on social media. The email also featured special HP brand messaging.

HP’s 2015 holiday cinema campaign also included onscreen Star Wars creative including the “Reinvent Romance” 30-second spot from BBDO New York and 180LA.

ThinkThin’s Zero Shades of Guilt

Fifty Shades of Grey seduced several new advertisers to cinema, including ThinkThin.

ThinkThin ran a cinema ad campaign leading up to and during the Fifty Shades theatrical release to reach moviegoers before, during and after the film, incorporating onscreen and in-lobby spots as well as targeted mobile video interstitials and pre-roll online video targeted specifically to NCM moviegoers. They also ran a fun “Zero Shades of Guilt” online contest in which fans 18 and older entered for a chance to win a pair of movie tickets to the film. To enter, they logged on to ThinkThin’s official Facebook page, clicked on the “Zero Shades of Guilt” tab and shared in 50 words or less their favorite #GuiltyNotGuily story…a story you should feel guilty about but don’t! 225 prize winners each received two movie tickets awarded as Movie Cash® certificates.

Live In Levis

Levi's unveiled a new women's denim collection that featured a range of styles for different body types, including skinny cuts, shaping styles and curvy fits. The “Live In Levis” campaign ads featured Alicia Keys and other female musicians, and was Levi's largest-ever effort aimed at women since it debuted its first pair of women's jeans in 1934. Levis worked with NCM to retarget ads to moviegoers on their mobile devices within seven days of their visit to the theatre, through NCM’s Cinema Accelerator digital offering.