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LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- As part of a new multimillion-dollar deal with National CineMedia, food behemoth Kraft is becoming the first food marketer to create unique long-form in-cinema commercial content.
This weekend, Kraft will debut a series of two- to three-minute branded-entertainment vignettes for brands such as Oscar Meyer Lunchables, Ritz crackers and Cadbury's Stride Gum. The latter represents the first media buy from the newly merged Kraft-Cadbury.
The last time major marketers shifted TV dollars into cinema, Publicis' MediaVest prepared to move as much as $100 million of its clients' dollars to in-theater pre-shows to combat declining audiences from the TV writers' strike. After that shift turned out to be a less-than-seismic $20 million to $30 million, however, the cinema industry started looking for the next big deal.
Now the Kraft deal could be a "game changer" for cinema, which has typically run repurposed versions of marketers' existing 30- or 60-second commercials, said Cliff Marks, president of sales and marketing at National CineMedia, which sells ads for theater chains such as AMC, Cinemark and Regal.
"Kraft really took the concept of creating two- to three-minute mini-movies and not only made history but did it in a very entertaining, compelling fashion that doesn't knock you over the head with a bat as a brand commercial," he said.
Mark Stewart, Kraft's VP-global media services, said the cinema buy is intended to be a video-agnostic approach to branded storytelling. Although none of the spots will appear on TV in the near-term, some have already appeared on the web, including Oscar Meyer's "Alien Field Trip," which has racked up over 47,000 views in just over two weeks.
"With cinema, you're talking to an audience that has high anticipation on a night out and made the considered decision to be entertained," Mr. Stewart said. "We want to be sure we're treating them with respect as an audience and be entertaining. It's not about painting every touchpoint red. It's about layering the brand story in different channels and layering what each one does best. In most cases, people are seeing movies for the first time. We want to make sure our brand story is complimentary to what they're there to see."
And as more marketers look to transfer more portions of their TV budgets into cinema, Mr. Stewart argued that the movies are the best place to find TV audiences on the weekends.
"Cinema is the highest-rated TV property on a Friday or Saturday night in terms of scale. It has the scale of traditional TV but the engagement of a [customer-relationship management] program in terms of time spent and efficacy. What we're really looking to do is add more depth and efficacy as we measure exposure to short-length advertising."
It's likely more marketers will follow Kraft's lead. National CineMedia, which represents more than half of the cinema ad market, grew ad revenue to $335.1 million in 2009 from $330.3 million in 2008.