SILVER-SCREEN ADS REFLECT DESIRE FOR CAPTIVE VIEWERS; SUMMERTIME: ONE MORE MEDIA VEHICLE TO TOSS INTO THE AD MIX WHEN TV IS SLOW

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Young active adults -- elusive creatures at the height of the summer and during the holiday season -- are a little easier for marketers to catch when they are sitting in front of a 40-foot screen and surrounded by digital sound.

Jamie Lockard, ad director for VF Corp.'s Lee Jeans, says rolling-stock cinema advertising has been a complement to its ad mix for that very reason.

"The [theater] admission peaks during summer and holiday time periods. On the TV side, that is when TV viewership among our target audience is lowest," says Ms. Lockard. "It's a perfect complement [and it is] bringing a new media vehicle to the table. Besides the fact that it has an incredibly big impact."

Lee Jeans is airing reformated versions of its TV commercials created by Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis.

Some efforts, such as the campaign that ran earlier this summer for Nike, are created specifically for the big screen. Other marketers using cinema advertising include Nintendo of America, Nissan Motor Corp., Reebok International and Target Stores.

Target, an official sponsor of the Championship Auto Racing Team, began airing its first-ever cinema commercial July 30 in the Chicago market.

The ad was created in-house and specifically for the big screen.

BIG FISH IN SMALL POND

According to Sharri Jurmain, VP-director of national advertising at ScreenVision, cinema advertising is a $50 million industry.

This small-fish-in-a-big-pond medium may not appear to be a threat to any ad budgets, especially TV. It has yet to win its own category in most media budgets and advertisers are reluctant to note from which portion of the budget they are pulling the media dollars.

COMMON IN EUROPE

In Europe, it is not unusual for moviegoers to witness as much as 10 minutes of rolling-stock commercials before the feature film begins. In the U.S., most theaters offering rolling-stock placement only allow three minutes of commercial time prior to the trailers.

ScreenVision, a media rep that handles 12,000 screens, believes the time has come for advertisers to choose theater as a medium. This year it spent $1 million on a print campaign themed "It's more than TV. It's the movies."

The effort is running in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and other publications. Outdoor and transit support in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. GFS Levinson, New York, handles the campaign, which was launched in January.

AGGRESSIVE PITCH

One newspaper ad hit TV squarely in the jaw during the pre-upfront selling season with the headline, "TV ratings are falling. Don't let your advertising go down with it."

ScreenVision says it sold out its 1999 inventory in the first quarter. National Cinema Network, representing about 10,000 screens nationwide, sold all of its inventory through this summer.

Lee aims to capture the attention of young adults 17 to 22 years old, says Ms. Lockard, who adds that TV remains an important part of the mix.

NOT A REPLACEMENT FOR TV

With "TV -- purely by the number of eyeballs [and] . . . the advent of WB and [with] cable -- you have the ability to target. Cinema helps with targeting young adults, but it's the physical environment that brings a new dimension that TV doesn't have. I don't feel one replaces another," Ms. Lockard says.

Cinema advertising was a huge part of a campaign to increase exposure and drive ratings to 8.1 for USA Network's adaptation of "Moby Dick" in spring 1998.

"Cinema advertising dovetailed with our objectives from the beginning," says Steven Naftelberg, director of media services at Griffin Bacal, New York. Targeting males 18 to 34, the "Moby Dick" commercial ran before "Star Trek: The Next Generation." Spending was undisclosed.

NATURAL FOR AUTO ADVERTISING

Cinema advertising is a natural for the auto industry because "sight, sound and motion is critical to automotive advertising," says Kevin Boyle, VP-brand marketing partner at Pontiac agency D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, Troy, Mich. The 1999 Montana minivan commercial targeted parents via G-and PG-rated films.

"We've seen great interest from national advertisers because we're helping them reach cinema circuits that haven't accepted this type of advertising before," says Laura Adler, VP-marketing at NCN.

Where the ad dollars come from is still the $64,000 question. No one is really willing to say the money is coming out of TV ad budgets.

"We don't compartmentalize media -- 50% here and 30% there. We think about how and why people use different media. And we spend as we see fit to reach people in the right place at the right time," says Mr. Naftelberg.

Ms. Lockard says one medium doesn't replace the other, but declined to address the source of the dollars.

Mr. Boyle says that funding for the cinema portion of the Montana campaign came from "discretionary dollars from the overall budget," not broadcast.

"It's moving footage, so that would typically come from broadcast," explains Rich Rivera, VP-media director at Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami, an agency that used cinema advertising for its client, Florida Anti-Smoking Coalition. "Cinema advertising is an out-of-pocket expense; so something must give, and it's usually TV dollars."

SOME STUDIOS CONCERNED

While some advertisers may welcome the additional venue, movie studios have shown concern about becoming one more commercial zone.

Walt Disney Co.'s Buena Vista Pictures Marketing and Warner Bros. banned rolling-stock ads from running prior to their movies in the late 1980s. Warner Bros. accepts ads before the houselights go down, but Disney's policy bars them at any time before its movies.

Ms. Lockard says Lee's commercials run during PG-, PG-13-and R-rated movies, and with the exception of Buena Vista, studios have been receptive.

Last year, "We wouldn't have been in front of 'A Bug's Life' but we would have been in front of 'Shakespeare in Love,' "she says.

Ms. Adler expects those movie chains building megaplexes may eventually renegotiate policies with reluctant studios.

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