Future of Cinema Advertising on Show at SAWA Cannes Lions 2014

By Patrick von Sychowski | August 20, 2014 2:54 am PDT

The Screen Advertising World Association (SAWA) held its annual showcase of Cinema Advertising innovation at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity 2014 on Monday 16 June. For those of you unable to attend (perhaps understandably, as CineEurope kicked off the same day), we bring you a report of what was said and shown.

The theme this year was “Back to the Future”, in honour of the imminent key year of 2015 that featured in all three films of the trilogy, which is also predicted to be the biggest year in box office history. As Cheryl Wannell, General Manager of SAWA pointed out in a pre-show interview, “there is no better time to use the cinema medium.

SAWA together with its sponsors pulled out all stops to stand out in the crowded Cannes Lions schedule, not least attracting attention by hiring one of the original DeLorean cars from Universal and parking it in front of the Palais. Delegates filled out the Estrelle auditorium in the Palais De Festivale as the music and trailer from Back To The Future (BTTF) played.

The regular MC channelled Doc Emmet Brown from the films and with an electric arc flash opened ‘the portal to the future’ that is cinema big screen, in terms of showcasing innovation. Speaker after speaker would return to this point, that innovations are often imagined in films before the become reality as real life technology. Nothing matches cinema’s ability to inspire innovation, as the audience was about to be told and show.

First up was a clip reel combining gadgets and technologies such as interactive driving maps, hand-held communicators, swipeable surfaces and voice controlled computers from films such as James Bond, Star Trek and Minority Report, coupled with adverts from companies such as General Motors, Samsung, Microsoft and Apple that had brought these technologies to life.


The first speaker, Digital Cinema Media’s Head of Planning and Knowledge Blackett Ditchburn, paid tribute to the two key years from the BTTF films: 1955, which was also the year television started taking attention from cinemas, and 1985 when email took off, pointing to the disruptive potential of the Internet. Yet he saw a bright future for cinema advertising as it embraced new technologies and integrated campaigns with a variety of platforms, while maintaining the highest impact of any advertising medium.

Key sponsor Yummi Media was next to stage, with a special SAWA Cinime app prepared just for the Cannes Lions that attendees had downloaded in advance. CEO Alastair (AJ) Simpson took to stage and told everyone in the audience to get their smartphones out. They were about to test their driving skills against a professional driver on a pre-recorded lap, in an interactive advert for BMW. The top ten winners would get to ride in the BTTF DeLorean. As AJ Simpson stated in the Lions Daily News:

The two major industries that have traditionally told us to turn our phones off — airlines and cinema — are now wise to the fact that mobile technology can play a serious part in the overarching experience. In terms of cinema, this evolved technology can make the preshow experience more engaging and rewarding.

Yummi’s Adam Campbell then introduced the classic Hollywood Squares television quiz show, re-booted for the big screen and with audience interaction via the Cinime app. Developed together with Group M Entertainment, the latters Tony Moulsdale and Martin Oxley talked the audience through how they could battle their film knowledge against industry professionals about movie trivia and facts. Those that answered enough questions right got to take home a small golden statuette looking remarkably like a certain famous annual film award.

Moving next to the United States, the President of Sales and Marketing of the world’s largest cinema advertising company, National CineMedia‘s (NCM) Cliff Marks, showed how the company was engaging with the ‘Millennials’ through their mobile phone during the pre-show, allowing brands to reach the must-have demographic in partnership with platforms such as Shazam, Twitter and Vine. “In an age when companies often flail about for a social media marketing strategy, cinema shows a way for how key consumers can engage with content they care about (films) in a way that creates both brand recall and brand loyalty,” was Cliff’ message.


Next some truly futuristic technology was showcased right on the stage, in aid of a truly inspiring cinema campaign. Karen Bryson and Emad Tahtouh from Australian multi-Lion winning creative agency Finch, showed how a robotic arm copied the handwriting of an Aussie teenager suffering from the muscular degenerative disease DMD, to write a petition list for greater funding based on people connecting with it through social media. Demonstrating its use, the audience in the auditorium were able to tweet question to it, written out in real time. Proving beyond a doubt that this was not a faked demonstration prepared in advance, the first question that came through from an audience member was, “does this work?”. To which the answer was a clear: Yes.

As Finch’s founder, Rob Galuzzo revealed before the show, the company would in collaboration with DCM set up the robotic arm at a cinema foyer in London where cinemagoers who signed up to the petition, using their mobile phones, would be able to see their names signed on the scroll of paper in real time as they left the auditorium where an ad was screened.

Guy Hawley from Dolby Laboratories took to the stage to talk about the next generation of cinema technologies, particularly immersive audio, with over 140 titles already confirmed in Dolby Atmos. The audience was then treated to a clip in Dolby 3D from this summer’s blockbuster X-Men: Days of Future Past (the amazing slow-motion ‘Time In A Bottle’ sequence).

Last to the stage was frequent SAWA contributor Julian Pinn, who was presenting on this occasion on behalf of Werbe Weischer, the German Cinema Advertising giant, who looked ahead to the cinema year 2015, which includes such highly anticipated films such as Star Wars: Episode VII, Avengers: Age of Ultron, James Bond 24, the new Fantastic Four, Assassin’s Creed and many more. He talked about the potential for linking brands stories to feature films, whether it is 007 sipping a beer rather than a martini or Transformers promoting Chinese energy drinks. “It is an opportunity for creatives to rethink what advertising can be for the cinema,” he stressed.

As the creatives filed out of the auditorium – picking up their gold statuettes and free popcorn courtesy of DCM – there was a buzz about the potential for creating innovative campaigns that positioned brands on the big screen using the latest tools, technologies and platforms. Ones that they hoped would go on to win Cannes Lions awards in 2015.

Celluloid Junkie is proud to be a media and convention partner of SAWA. Any similarity between the Doc Brown on stage and yours truly is purely down to coincidence, a bald wig, extensive costumes and makeup.

Patrick von Sychowski
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