Theater Owners Need Directions to Madison & Vine

If I Can't Hear the Ad, How Can it Entertain Me?

By Published on .

I went to the movies the other night to see "Once," a powerful and beautiful Irish film. About 10 minutes before the start time, an ad came on the screen for Smirnoff vodka. The spot, called Signature, is from JWT, New York, and it's a wonderful short animated film. But my guess is most of the other audience members didn't realize that, because the house lights were still up and the audio was turned so far down I had to strain to hear the narration.

And it struck me: We can talk all we want about the need for commercials to be more entertaining as we move from an intrusive advertising model to an invitational one. We can speak endlessly about the rise of branded entertainment as a marketing discipline, about alliances between marketers and film studios, record labels, TV networks and other purveyors of pop culture. But if the execution doesn't live up to the intent, all the talk is meaningless.

A growing number of advertisers are working hard to raise the entertainment value of their messages to live up to audience expectations. But their content is still given second-class treatment. Theater owners clearly like the money cinema advertising brings in; for the last few years, it's been one of the industry's fastest-growing segments. So why not give good cinema advertising the same chance as a film trailer to grab and hold the attention of the audience?

Smart advertisers realize they're no longer in control, and that they will lose if they don't respect audiences. Those making a good-faith effort to raise the bar, and to create ads worthy of the spaces in which they appear (the Smirnoff commercial needs a big screen and good speakers to be fully appreciated) deserve a shot at being seen.
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