Screenvision and NCM Upfronts tout connectivity and Millennial appeal


While movie theatres are always seeking the broadest possible demographic, cinema-advertising leaders Screenvision Media and National CineMedia (NCM) are especially focused on the Millennial world of 18- to 34-year-olds who crowd multiplexes and the big-spending advertisers intent on reaching them.

At their annual Upfront presentations in Manhattan, Screenvision’s theme was “Impact Like No Other” while NCM proclaimed its network as “All About Millennials, Content and Data.”

Fueling the selling mania at the two companies’ events—Screenvision at the vast Skylight space at Moynihan Station in midtown, NCM at uptown’s AMC Loews Lincoln Square—were lavishly produced programs, each comprising explosive clips; short, on-target executive speeches full of stats; and pitches of new options (in theatres and beyond) for advertisers to connect their brands with the young audiences they covet.

Like the “storytelling” buzzword that has spread through the industry, “connectivity” is a hot button among the advertisers. NCM, positioning itself as “America’s Movie Network,” emphasized its key function as “connectors” of film fans to brands. And Screenvision, too, promised advertisers “impact, engagement and connectivity.”

But the most powerful salvo came by way of abundant clip montages or tease segments of Hollywood blockbusters soon to hit screens. And, as a reminder, there was a flashy montage of the 2015 megahits that created a record, knockout year at the box office.

Oddly, Millennials as a demographic are elusive and beyond definition, except that these demographic darlings love (beyond their mobile phones) the big Hollywood movies—and it’s this love affair that drove and sexed up both presentations.This not-so-secret sauce in both presentations was perfectly suited to the ad community elders who packed both venues, as more often than not the big films have wide appeal beyond the Millennial margins.

Both cinema-ad companies made ample use of this ammo in the war to win ad dollars. A few among the many film samples on view were (in no particular order) Marvel’s Doctor Strange, STX’s The Edge of Seventeen and Bad Moms, Disney’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Paramount’s Ring, Pixar’s Finding Nemo sequel Finding Dory, Disney’s Moana (with extraordinary rendering of animated water), and Warner Bros.’ Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Both sell-side presentations from the two cinema-advertising companies were compelling and, on the buy side, the mad men and women, their cohorts and facilitators (buying and placement services) seemed mightily won over. (At least that vibe was in the air.) The wheeling, dealing and buying begins immediately and runs through the year and beyond as advertisers place their bets on the best ways for their deep-pocketed brands to reach (make that “connect with”) the film-going consumers.

Only five or so years into pitching the in-theatre-and-beyond opportunities to the advertising community, both Screenvision, whose cinema-advertising network reaches over 14,300 screens in 2,300+ theatre locations nationwide, and NCM, whose cinema-ad network reach is about 20,400 screens in approximately 1,600 theatres, are relatively new to this upfront game.

Their competition for ad dollar billions is not the digital players like Netflix, Amazon and YouTube, but broadcast television, which, beyond being the longtime party hosts to Madison Avenue guests during the decades-old upfront frenzy of pitching, schmoozing and partying, has the billions of eyeballs that it has long been attracting.

But that love affair with TV has been cooling, or so it seems, as Millennials are increasingly mad about the movies. According to stats and charts that were part of the Screenvision and NCM presentations, Millennials, loving their DVRs and other platforms, are more and more abandoning TV on weekends in favor of the multiplex big screens. NCM even delivered an original short piece starring the Minions to drive home the dominance of the 40-foot screen over those small ones. And, at NCM’s presentation, Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore, underscored this point by telling attendees that not only was 2015 a record attendance year but that attendance is growing and already up this year over last by nearly eight percent in box-office revenue. Also noted at the presentations was that for the sixth consecutive year, broadcast TV ratings, especially on weekends, have continued to decline.

As the arguments go, the out-of-home appeal isn’t just the theatres’ amazing Hollywood product (the “kick-ass content” of major movies, as one speaker put it), but that Millennials need to be on top of pop culture and in-the-know at the get-go (those packed opening weekends) about which are the best among the latest releases. It’s that FOMO (fear of missing out), as one of the executives reminded, that obsesses them.

Also key to attracting the Millennials, said the cinema advertisers, are the ever-improving amenities in theatres: formats like IMAX and 11.1 surround sound, recliner seating, and better food and drink options. Also making theatre-going more attractive is the fact that big releases are, thanks to new studio thinking, moving toward a “year-round solution,” as film releases are more spread out and no longer confined to just summer and the winter holiday season.

Other highlights of the cinema-advertising presentations included many related to new experiences for theatre-goers (more interactivity and not just games and prizes inside auditoriums) and especially for advertisers in the areas of bigger, better data (gathered a variety of ways in and outside theatres) and Screenvision and NCM’s new or continued partnerships that allow more and better options for product placement and that all-important connectivity.

Also enhanced are the pre-shows, with Screenvision even producing an original serial featuring the ongoing story of five attractive (young, of course) movie-mad characters. Advertisers will also no doubt be enticed by Screenvision’s deal with Branded Entertainment Network (BEN) that enables advertisers to integrate brands more authentically and unobtrusively into films and pre-shows.

The in-cinema people also touted better purchase opportunities for filmgoers who want to quickly grab products connected to the films or pre-show content they’ve just seen.

Also on the better-data front, Screenvision’s deal with comScore (formerly Rentrak) will allow advertisers to get more targeted programming information and better attribution (or confirmation) regarding product purchases following consumer theatre experiences. Better targeting for advertisers will also involve better matching of filmgoer tastes with upcoming movies.

And Screenvision’s renewed deal with app giant Shazam will give brands the opportunity to align themselves with top musical artists for creation of onscreen content. And on and on.

The overall impression made by the slickly produced presentations was that advertising in theatres and with Millennial theatre-goers is a win-win-win-win all around for theatres, studios, audiences, advertisers and their brands.

Of course, the cinema advertising bells and whistles touted were meant to jazz the ad audience and promote newer, better ideas for them to connect to their targeted consumers. But the bigger challenge is for all this frou-frou to complement the number-one big-screen attraction—the Hollywood blockbuster coming to a theatre near you. For studio and exhibitor ears, that would ring bells of a different kind.