In the end, the Publicis Groupe shop will have to be content with moving between $20 million and $30 million, ample proof that marketers still face an internal tug of war when considering alternatives to the ever-popular boob tube.
"TV is still an incredibly powerful medium; there's no two ways about it," said John Moore, senior VP-director of ideas and innovation at Interpublic Group of Cos.' Mullen. "But it is not as powerful as it used to be."
At the beginning of the writers strike, "scatter prices in the fourth quarter and first quarter were through the roof," said Donna Speciale, president-investment and activation at the Publicis Groupe firm's U.S. operations, referring to TV ad time that is purchased on an as-needed basis rather than reserved for upfront negotiations.
Money from broadcast
MediaVest expects clients to commit more dollars in 2009, after learning about the movies and looking at the results of tests by the firm. The dollars represent money that was once committed to broadcast prime time.
Among the MediaVest clients that have switched TV money to cinema are Kraft Foods, Activision and Capital One.
"We have definitely broadened our definition of video and are pushing out beyond the TV screen into other areas," said Gary Gruneberg, Kraft's director of media buying. Among the Kraft brands that are part of the cinema effort are Jell-O, Chips Ahoy and Oreo.
An Activision spokeswoman said the company has purchased cinema advertising "for some time" but has not finalized its mix for this year. Capital One executives were not available to comment.
Cinema advertising can be a way to reach consumers when TV viewing ebbs, particularly between Friday afternoon and Sunday evening. Executives expect dollars to be reallocated to the medium gradually, as more advertisers grow accustomed to the ins and outs of advertising on the big screen.
Since MediaVest's intentions became known, National CineMedia has received inquiries from other buyers trying to stake out inventory, said Cliff Marks, the company's president-sales and chief marketing officer. "We'll try to be fair, but we're going to take the deal we need to make when we are negotiating with MediaVest," he said. A Screenvision spokesperson said the firm has been approached by other media agencies "about discussing shifting dollars to cinema" but declined to name the agencies.
Cinema advertising has gained ground in recent years. In 2006, cinema advertising increased 15% to $455.6 million, according to the Cinema Advertising Council, up from $394.8 million in 2005.
"If there's any big shift to be had, it probably will be some sort of migration of TV dollars and some sort of migration of out-of-home dollars," said Dave Krupp, a managing director at WPP Group's Kinetic Worldwide.
But cinema can be a tough place to run commercials. Audiences expect to see fresh content that is deserving of big-screen treatment, not by-the-numbers stuff they see on TV every day. One rival media buyer said the idea of moving $100 million from TV is "ridiculous."
Mullen's Mr. Moore said cinema advertising "is emphatically a complement and not a substitute" to broadcast.