NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Movies continue to be the most recession-proof medium, with ticket sales in the first two months of 2009 up 16% to $1.75 billion and attendance up 14.8%, according to Media by Numbers. And marketers seem to be following consumers to the movies: This recessionary boom helped the two leading cinema-advertising companies, Screenvision and National Cinemedia, set sales records in the fourth quarter.
Matthew Kearney, CEO of Screenvision, which represents National Amusements, Marquee Cinemas, the recently acquired Marcus Theaters and others, said the company finished the fourth quarter of 2008 with record ad sales, and the first quarter of 2009 has already surpassed his financial targets.
"I think the fact that we're now regarded as a well-measured and reliable medium, we're seeing more and more broadcast buyers recognize us for what we are, which is a highly results-driven broadcast network," Mr. Kearney said.
Classifying cinema as broadcast
As more media agencies classify cinema as broadcast in their TV-buying groups, including WPP's Group M and Publicis Groupe's Starcom and Mediavest, the movement to measure cinema like TV has accelerated too. National CineMedia, which sells in-theater ads for AMC, Loews and Regal Cinemas, recently became the first cinema company to sign up for customized Nielsen data that will equate cinema viewing with TV gross rating points.
Doug Pulick, National CineMedia's senior VP-research, cited two 2008 tests of cinema's relative audience reach and frequency against TV in which cinema was found to have 2% more GRPs than TV, roughly the equivalent of 2 million adults 18 to 49 who can be reached more exclusively at the movies.
"They're not consuming as much TV conventionally as older folks do," Mr. Pulick said. "We're delivering an audience truly unique and additive to TV buying."
Although adults 18 to 49 don't attend the movies as often as they watch TV in a given week, Mr. Pulick said Nielsen will be fusing data from National CineMedia's attendance, demographic and product-usage data from MRI to create an equivalent GRP metric for cinema.
National CineMedia won't officially start measuring cinema for marketers on a way that's comparable to TV until later in the second quarter. Still, more marketers in the retail and confectionary categories are already starting to spend TV dollars in cinema, and even customize their campaigns for the format.
Cliff Marks, president of sales and marketing for National CineMedia, said T.G.I. Friday's and Holiday Inn Express have created custom campaigns for cinema, and Screenvision's Mr. Kearney said Fox Home Entertainment also has an ad unique to theaters. But the general (and more cost-effective) trend is still to repurpose 30-second TV spots.
"Oftentimes it is the same creative. What we find is many marketers either will break their creative literally one week ahead of -- or, if nothing else, concurrent to -- their TV schedule," Mr. Marks said. "We see very few clients that run cinema campaigns two or three months after the campaign aired."
Screenvision is also readying the first 3-D cinema ad, to air before the release of one of the dozen feature films shot in 3-D slated for release in 2009.
"There's a strong interest across a whole range of categories among people who want to be associated with innovation, creativity, also looking for bang for their buck in 2009," Mr. Kearney said.