Canvas Worldwide: Cinema Advertising on the 2022 Comeback Trail

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Every data barometer for cinema advertising that Canvas Worldwide's Senior Vice President of National Video Investment Tanya Zvonkin reviews points to 2022 as a renaissance year for the media sector. Blockbuster epics like Top Gun: Maverick and the latest chapters of the Thor, Doctor Strange and Jurassic Park franchises are drawing people to movie theaters. They're back as well for the half-hour or hour-long compilations of short subjects, trivia games, ads and movie trailers that precede the feature presentation.

Attention span is one of several factors that make cinema advertising so potent, especially with the highly desirable 18-34 age group, says Zvonkin. According to research gathered by Canvas, 84% of theater attendees focus on the wide screen in front of them during pre-feature programming. After the movie ends, 60% can recall at least one pre-show message they viewed in major detail.

That's almost twice as high as the percentage of people who keep their focus on TV commercials watched at home -- 37%, according to a TVision survey conducted last year.

"There's a very distinct difference between the theater experience, in terms of consuming media, versus the in-home or outside experience," explains Zvonkin. In the last several years, consumers have gone "from a one-device [TV] viewing consumer to multiple devices and multitasking. When you're in a theater and the lights are off, you're forced to shut down your phones and have a one-to-one experience with the screen. That's become a lot more important since the pandemic."

The greater the attention span, the greater the possibility of increased sales for the products or services promoted. Auto commercials that run in cinemas register a 91% attention average, according to research cited by Canvas.

Zvonkin is not surprised by the high attention benchmarks as consumers resume their moviegoing habits. "Some of us watch TV while playing with our phones. Some of us are texting or skimming through e-mails and social media," she says. "Very few people we know today are sitting, completely engaged with their TV screen. When you make the choice to go to a movie, you make the choice to shut it all off. That's why the attention numbers are higher."

Upfront advertiser commitments so far this year are on a positive track, with autos and carbonated beverages coming back into the cinema marketplace in a big way, and companies representing other product categories such as technology jumping on board. An absence of clutter and category exclusivity position cinema advertising well compared to TV, Zvonkin asserts.

Pre-show offerings usually present four or five minutes of ads, spaced inside two pods -- one pod running early on when behind-the-scenes or trivia featurettes run, the other pod placed near the movie trailer section. Some pre-show presentations now place an ad before the final trailer, and/or offer the standard "turn off your devices" on-screen reminder with a sponsored billboard.

With such a limited amount of ad time per pre-show, cinema ad sales organizations are out to get as many product categories involved in each run as possible. For the audience, the viewing experience is more differentiated with one message from an automaker, one from a beverage, one from a candy company, and so on. At the same time, Canvas and other participating agencies are coming up with more cinematic approaches to their messages. For Hyundai's new iONIQ-5 electric vehicle, Canvas planned a campaign demonstrating in rapid-fire fashion how society has evolved over the centuries.

Because of the movie-like approach to the messages, people don't see them as commercials, says Zvonkin. "If you're smart enough with your creative, they will be a lot more open to it and love your ad."

In the coming year, cinema advertising is likely to expand into other venues, including smart TVs and smartphones, as part of a drive to give consumers a 360-degree moviegoing environment. The devices could deliver additional info and extended scenes from movies now playing, ticket-ordering capability and interactive games connected to specific films or film franchises.

"You start before the movie, go into the pre-show and continue with the consumer after the movie, so you have a true relationship with the brand and the viewer," Zvonkin anticipates.

Look for Canvas to be in the thick of that. The agency is developing several innovative projects suited to that environment, in association with several clients and film distributors.

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