"Fifty Shades of Grey" has done more than spice up the sex lives of the novel's 100 million readers. The movie version, opening Friday in the U.K., is also spicing up the cinema advertising industry, by selling a record number of ad slots, bringing in new advertisers, and inspiring creative executions to match the film's raunchy reputation.
In the U.K., where audiences still arrive at the cinema early to catch the glossy, big-brand commercials, "Fifty Shades of Grey" is bringing Calvin Klein Jeans to cinema advertising for the first time. The movie has also inspired the less upmarket adult clothing retailer, Vibez, to make its own cinema debut.
Other brands keen to be associated with the racy film in the U.K. include Estée Lauder, Nike, General Motors, and Universal Music, which created the "Fifty Shades" soundtrack. The movie can only be seen by viewers aged 18 or over in the U.K, but is ranked "R" in the U.S., where under-17s can see it if accompanied by an adult.
Karen Stacey, CEO of Digital Cinema Media (DCM) in the U.K., said, "We've seen a huge amount of interest from a wide range of female-focused brands looking to book into "Fifty Shades of Grey." It's set to be one of the most talked-about films of 2015 and these brands have all recognized the opportunity on offer to engage with the young, upmarket, early-adopting, social media savvy audience the film is set to attract."
Unlike in the U.S. -- where cinema advertising is sold around a film's rating -- U.K, marketers can pick and choose specific time slots during specific films where they want their ads to be seen. Renault has paid DCM for "gold spots" during "Fifty Shades of Grey" screenings, which are the last commercial message after the trailers and directly before the film starts.
Revlon has bought "silver spots" (the last ads to run before the trailers start) for its #loveison campaign by AR New York, which first launched in November but fits perfectly with the film, showing hot couples and flashing up words like "Sexy," "Desire," "Passion," and "Seduction."
Charlie Yeates, a board director at MediaCom U.K., said he had heard reports that advanced bookings for "Fifty Shades of Grey" may have matched the volume of Harry Potter's final cinematic release.
Mr. Yeates said, "Universal Pictures has given the film the biggest possible platform to grab as much audience as possible by focusing full attention onto a massively female-focused property and using Valentines weekend as a vehicle. There isn't one other major release targeted at adults until February 26th, and that's "The Second Best Marigold Hotel," so not even a direct competitor for the cross-over period when both films are live. With the risqué trailers as well, the marketing by Universal Pictures can only be described as masterful."
Condom manufacturers on both sides of the Atlantic have targeted "Fifty Shades of Grey," for obvious reasons. Havas Worldwide London's racy Durex spot, inspired by a survey which revealed people are twice as likely to read a book in bed as they are to have sex, tells viewers, "Reality. It's better than fiction," and offers advice on #50GamesToPlay.
In the U.S., Trojan is running a 15-second teaser to promote its humorous online film, "Fifty Shades of Real Pleasure," which mercilessly parodies the movie. New cinema advertisers taking advantage of the anticipated popularity of "Fifty Shades of Grey" in the U.S. include European Wax Centers and ThinkThin protein bars, whose "Zero Shades of Guilt" campaign has included online contests to win tickets to see the movie.
Cliff Marks, president of sales and marketing at U.S. cinema advertising company National CineMedia (NCM), said, "Plenty of advertisers have bought "R" ratings in February – no one has opted out. Why should they? It's going to be a great film with high engagement. In fact 2015 is looking like a perfect storm of hits for the movie industry. At NCM, upfronts are up more than 100% from last year, thanks to movies like "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," James Bond's "Spectre," "Avengers: Age of Ultron," and "Minions."
In the U.S., NCM said this is the first time cinema ad slots have been sold out for February.
Cinema ad spend in the U.K. increased from $120 million a year in 2012 to $130 million last year, and is expected to reach $137 million this year, according to the U.K.'s DCM. Cinema will account for around 1.1% of media spend in the U.K. this year, compared to just 0.45% in the U.S., according to ZenithOptimedia.
It's not only movie theaters looking to prosper from the commercial success of "Fifty Shades of Grey." Britain's biggest DIY chain, B&Q, sent out a memo suggesting staff read the book and warning them to expect a soar in demand for the types of cable ties, rope and duck tape used during bondage sequences in the film. B&Q later admitted the memo was a fake, designed to drum up media attention.
Retailer Tesco has launched a "Fifty Shades of Grey" underwear line, and there is, of course, a "Fifty Shades" range of condoms and sex toys, approved by author E.L. James. In the U.S., Vermont Teddy Bears has a Christian Grey teddy bear, named after the book's central character.
According to NCM research, 54% of 18-to-34-year-old women in the U.S. said they are likely to see the movie in a theater, which is 58% higher than the rest of the population. Of those surveyed who said they are very likely to see the film, 83% are female and 57% do not have children.