CineEurope: Connected, Collaborative & Customer Centred – Innovations in Cinema Marketing

By Patrick von Sychowski | July 1, 2015 9:59 am PDT
Jan Runge at CineEurope 2015

This is a real-time transcription of one of the many seminars at CineEurope 2015. As such we often paraphrase the presentations being given.

One of the first sessions at this year’s CineEurope 2015 highlighted the innovative use of social media, mobile services and other digital platforms as they become an increasingly powerful way of engaging cinema audiences. This session reviewed what major brands in this area, or more bespoke operations, have to offer the industry.

Jan Runge, CEO of the European cinema trade body, the International Union of Cinemas or UNIC moderated the session, opening with a welcome to everybody and announcing that this year there will be French, Spanish and German translation channels for those who picked up the head-sets outside.

“We start Monday with a series of seminars, session and discussions that explore trends in cinema exhibition,” said Runge. “Two weeks ago when UNIC met European politicians, someone said, ‘We always talk about bringing films to the audience, [but] we have to talk more about bringing audiences to the cinema.’ That’s what the first session is about. This is about using mobile and social platforms to bring audiences to the cinema.”

First, a few facts:

  • 82% of internet users watch trailers online.
  • Two-thirds of mobile phone users have movie apps on their smartphones
  • 46% of social media users discuss movies on social platforms after seeing a film.

Amy Copeland, Senior Industry Manager for Entertainment, Google

Ms. Copeland begins her presentation by looking show consumer attitudes have changed over the last ten years, highlighting the technology leaps that have enabled smartphones to access the world’s information. “We have to stop thinking of ‘mobile’ as a device and think of it as a behavior,” she explained.

“We are more spontaneous. We make small spurts of action,” Copeland continued. “We at Google call them ‘micro moments’. I would argue those are the most important to brands today. Digital behaviour is signals, not noise. Facebook is about what people like, Amazon is what people buy, Apple what people like and Google is what people do. Search is all about human behavior; it dates back to the search for food, shelter, to art and Shakespeare.”

Copeland points out how the correlation between the search for a film title and its box office success has never been stronger. As the release date of a movie nears, search grows stronger. What is driving it is mobile, with 36% of movie goers using smartphones when searching for cinema tickets, yet 52% of users encounter issues when accessing a website via these devices. Meanwhile, what Copeland refers to as “near me” searches have grown by multiple of 34, with 80% of users searching for what movies are playing nearby.

“Think about making search as simple as possible on mobile,” Copeland suggested. “Answer consumer’s needs in micro moments.”

Keeping in mind that Google earns most of its revenue through advertising, Copeland points out that only 4% of adspend is mobile, despite such platforms accounting for ten times the traffic in searches related to shopping. She urges attendees to measure the full impact of mobile, making sure to match mobile behaviour with offline behaviour.

She finshes with three points:

  • Identify your micro-moment(s);
  • Shape the experience of those moments;
  • Understand which micro-moments matter.

Ian Shephard, Group Chief Commercial Officer, Odeon & UCI Cinemas

Mr. Shephard is up next and begins wth a joke about erasing the browsing history on his mobile after everything he had just heard from Copeland.

This is Shephard’s first CineEurope, having joined Odeon & UCI last year. “I’m the new boy but represent a company with an old history,” he told the audience. Odeon has a very long track record indeed. And it is that combination of long history and experience and also perhas some perspective on other industries in telecom and retail, which shapes his take on what will bring in customers.

You might remember Paul Donovan giving the keynote speech last year at CineEurope. He made the case that it is data and insight, working in close collaboration that is key to getting customers to come to the cinema more often. With that in mind Shephard plans to show experiments that his team has have completed, detailing the conclusions and insights that were garnered.

“We are fundamentally a hospitality business,” said Shephard. “You are going to come more often if you enjoy yourself.” So, Shephard started with data and analytics moving the company’s data houses to the cloud, changing and upgrading Odeon’s CRM analytics system in various countries so he could mine, explore and understand what the data provided.

“In data, the average is always wrong,” he explained, pointing out that the three euro figure often used for average concessions spend is a combination of the one who buys the ten euro nacho combo, a bunch of people who would never buy any concession offerings in addition to people who just buy a bottle of water. Each of these products and opportunities are different. Yet the industry looks at that three euro figure and says “I wish that was 3.10 euro.”

“Digital is the engine of customer connectivity,” Shephard continued. “We continue to insist on charging a premium for buying tickets early. Many of us have not invested enough in mobile devices and optimizing our website. A majority of Odeon’s transactions now come from mobile. We have removed booking fees in the UK. Every penny of that spend has been worth it. Then there’s the growth in social media connectivity. The next step in that journey is when you put together social and CRM to understand who is passionate and then linking that to who comes to cinema, what they book, and how they spend on food and beverage”

Shephard is delighted to report that Odeon is starting to get some answers to these questions by working together with distribution partners. The company’s market share has risen as a result. “When we do this well, when we see market share rise, we are not stealing audience from other exhibitors, but growing the market as whole,” Shephard said.

Then he moved on to mobile apps, “Test, learn and optimize,” Shephard added. “You can spend months designing the perfect app, but the customers will tell you what is right, so we have tested different designs.” Shephard demonstrated an A/B design test he conducted in which both pages presented to users had the same functionality with different ways to select a cinema and date. One page worked dramatically better, though he wasn’t sure which one it would be. However, by conducting A/B tests Odeon knew which page was better within a few days.

“We then connect all these insights to the experience in the cinemas,” said Shephard. “We have a net promoter score. This is a very powerfull tool to help staff in a cinema drive what works. Drive through partnerships with distributors, to derive insights rather than data. We don’t do that by stealing others’ business but getting people to come and see film who would otherwise not normlly come to the cinemas.”

“We have lots to learn from other businesses,” he continued. “We will be announcing the Odeon & UCI Innovation Lab where we created a sandbox to test and play around with different concepts. We are very serious about working with the broader digital eco system.”

What’s Shephard’s evidence that all his work is paying dividends? “In our Q1 results all around Europe we saw our market share rising,” he reported. “And this was in response to hard work. We are only in the foothills of this. The first chapter in a long journey. Together, investing in these things, sharing insights, the second century of cinema could be an interesting one.”

Ste Thompson, CEO and Creative Director, Powster

Mr. Thompson begins by explaining who Powster is and what the company does.

Powster runs the world’s largest distribution and promotion platform for movies online. The company’s platform powers some of the largest sites in the world such as the promotional sites for “50 Shades of Grey”, “Jurassic World”, etc. Over 700 movie destinations created by Powster to-date and their sites receive on average 1.5m visits per play week.

“Powster is how fans connect with a film they like,” Thompson explained. “So when fans find a film they like it [on its dedicated site] it then sends them through to where they can get tickets. So [we are] not Fandango [the US ticket booking website]; it is simply to get fans to find where and how to watch a film. Films representing 97.75% of the US box office had one of these platforms built for them. So it is truly world wide. If you press ‘Get Tickets’ on the “Jurassic World” website in the US it takes you through to Fandango where you can buy a ticket to a local cinema.”

Thompson described the four steps in terms of converting a movie fan into a ticket buyer.

  1. Teaser trailer – Send reminders when it is released
  2. Payoff trailer – Send reminders when its released
  3. Advance Ticket – Notify by email when tickets are available
  4. Release Day – Notify by email when the movie is in theatres

Thompson described how to improve and innovate online cinema interest by activating moviegoers directly. He suggested utilizing deep links between websites and showed the importance of mobile optimized platforms for cinema ticket buying. “The impule from pressing ‘Get ticket’ on the dedicated film page often leads to the front page of the likes of Fandango or the cinema’s own website, rather than to the ticket buying section of that website,” he said, going on to compare this to flight ticket price comparison websites that take you straight through to the booking section of an airline’s website, rather than its front page.

Following on top of the wisdom Google’s Copeland had just imparted, Thompson informed attendees that 22.5% of traffic for movie websites was mobile in 2014 but this year it is already at 43.3%.

“There is an opportunity to let studio monitor and improve activty, based on cinema goers’ actual behavior – not just web surfing patterns,” he said. “Did the online traffic convert to real paying customers and which activity led to the most conversions? Get the movie studios to optimise their advertising for paying customers at your cinemas. When studios know what is working they can improve it.”

Thompson left everyone with a final thought: Improve the user journey from surfing film-related websites to buying cinema tickets.

Philip Taylor, Director of Strategic Solutions, Yahoo!

“Following Google, fortuitously I’m going to talk about some of the gaps of the consumer,” Mr. Taylor began before playing a Yahoo trailer related to film. “Story telling and content is changing significantly. Online is where content owners go to curate their stories. So the way we tell stories is changing. Video and photography is starting to merge. Such as the animate GIF. People distribute them through the likes of Tumblr.”

Taylor revealed how consumer shifts lead to advertiser shifts. “If you don’t have a mobile device optimized site – then do that right now,” he implored. “It sounds complicated, but it is a fantastic opportunity. So we can target people exactly where they are. We will serve them content that their peers are talking about so that they can share that water-cooler moment.”

He went on to show the Yahoo! movie page for “Terminator Genisys” which sits on top of Tumblr. “It offers bite-size pieces of content that people want to send out and share,” said Taylor. “All this is happening before the movie is even released. So we get them excited and then send them through to the ticket site.”

Taylor described how content consumption has changed; it is visual, real time, short form and seamless. “Previously you would see the trailer and go and see a movie,” he said. “That is changing. Now you have people chopping up a trailer into the components and changing it.” He used the latest “Star Wars” trailer as an example in which fans took bite-size pieces of the Millennium Falcon, a new light saber and a new droid and turned thin into five second snippets to create their own short film or GIF.

“8 seconds is quite important. Why?” Taylor asks the audience. Someone suggested Vine, but Taylor said, “Vine is 7 seconds. 8 seconds is our average attention span. In 2012 our attention span was 12 seconds. 9 seconds is goldfish attention span.” It is notable that this factoid was not backed up by any scientific research or reference, but at this point I’ve already forgotten what Taylor just said. Must! Focus!

In summary, Taylor reports “Content is changing. The key to increasing cinema admissions is to embrace that change. Creation of content is great but curation is more efficient and works. Don’t be afraid to let people create their own content.”

Questions & Answers

Q: Regarding the point about extending the journey from the pre-trailer. Are there trends in age groups?

Taylor: Yes, definitely. Millenials are creating that content. It starts at Tumblr and then moves out onto other platforms like Facebook. As it goes on its journey, it engages with everyone interested in it.

Q: What is the key thing in marketing that Odeon is not doing any more? What would all of you tell exhibitors not to do?

Shephard: When I pull the threads all together, the message is stop getting in the way of the customers. Starting people off with trailers and then dumping them onto the front page of a cinema’s website that can’t be seen on a mobile phone is an example of bad practice. The maths of that is stark. Google Analytics will tell you just how much you are losing if you are driving traffic to a non-optimized site. Fixing that has made an enormous difference.

Thompson: It is important to also be device agnostic so that the website and platform fits for any screen. Don’t do two sites, make a site that fits into any landscape, horizontal, tablet or smartphone.

Taylor: Plan out the customer journey and if anything is blocking the customer in their path then stop it. People expect a fluid journey. We have a very linear process that we are trying to get people through and that has to change.

Copeland: Embrace data and understand what your marketing is driving and improve that moving forward.

Shephard: Where we have interesting results is when we remember that the film we are bringing to the market is a brand. And it goes through all the stages of a brand. But it will have a life long journey even after the cinema. How do we maximize the brand value that someone has spent years and months to create. That breaks down barriers of data shaing and trust. I’m not here to say that we have all the answers but to share. There is enormous untapped opportunity to bring products to market in a more coherent way.

Patrick von Sychowski
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