Honda, Dodge, Others Flog Cars on Big Screen

Cinema Player Sees Surge as Automakers Seek Out Young, Captive Crowds

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DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- The onslaught of cars rolling into movie theaters this summer isn't the cartoon kind. Rather, it's an advertising barrage from automakers trying to get at the blockbuster crowd and driving double-digit segment growth in the medium.
With the hot summer-movie season around the corner, automakers are upping the ante for movie-theater advertising. Screenvision's revenue in the segment for the first half of 2008 is almost double what it was in the first half of 2007, said exec VP-sales and marketing Mike Chico, who said he expects to sell out 2008 inventory in the third quarter, which is unusual.

National CineMedia's Cliff Marks, CMO and president of sales, said his ad revenue in the segment is up by a double-digit percentage for the same period.

In May or June, consumers will see ads on the big screen for the Dodge Journey, Saturn's 2008 Vue and Aura, the redone 2009 Honda Pilot, the Acura TSX and the 2008 Lexus IS F.

What's the big draw of the big screen? A captive younger audience.

No TiVo here
"You're in an uncluttered environment where you have a dedicated audience in their seats," said Mark Spencer, senior manager-communications for Chrysler's Dodge brand.

Dodge, which used cinema for the late-spring launch of its Caliber two years ago, expects some 44 million impressions from its deal with Screenvision, Mr. Spencer said. The Screenvision deal broke in about 11,000 theaters last week and extends through late May.

Mr. Spencer likes this time of the year for its blockbusters. On top of that, moviegoers tend to skew younger than TV viewers, which fits with two of Journey's main targets: young singles and couples with small children. The marketer is using a 60-second version of a 30-second national TV spot that broke in April from BBDO, showing the crossover's ability to stow a giant water slide.

Mr. Marks said carmakers, as a category, historically have been in the top three industries that advertise with NCM, the other two being entertainment companies and the military.

General Motors' Saturn Vue and Aura models will be starring on over 30,000 screens in June via buys with both Screenvision and National CineMedia, said Dave Koziara, the brand's advertising manager. He expects to reach more than 150 million people with the ads from Deutsch, Los Angeles, and dealers will have vehicle displays at theaters and linked activities in some markets.

Air-conditioned theaters
"With schools out for the summer and TV going from new programming to repeats, we believe June is a great time to be in theater," said Mr. Koziara. "Not only do we get to reach a captive audience, but this June there are many new releases that we believe have the potential to be blockbuster hits." Among those, he said, are "Sex in the City," "Speed Racer" and "Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian."

Screenvision's Mr. Chico said the outfit's extensive research found consumers' recall rates for cinema advertisers between 38% and 55%. "The recall level allows our advertisers to make an impact."

Consultant BigResearch criticized major carmakers' reliance on traditional media last month when it released a spending analysis based on its consumer polling. For example, of the nearly 16,000 Americans surveyed by BigResearch, 17.5% of GM customers said TV influences their auto purchases, a sharp contrast to the 40% of GM's $3 billion ad budget assigned to TV ads.

Total cinema advertising by all advertisers is expected to post another year of double-digit growth for 2007 when the Cinema Advertising Council releases that data in the next six weeks or so, a spokesman there said. In 2006, cinema advertising tallied $455 million, a 15% jump from the prior year, according to the trade group.
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