Cinema, and its ability to connect with audiences like no other medium, was at the heart of DCM’s 2023 Cinema Media Showcase. In a packed auditorium at the Odeon Luxe Leicester Square, advertisers and agencies heard how the theatrical experience is unique in its ability to captivate a crowd, provide the kind of attention that brands are perennially chasing, and create the shared ‘water cooler’ moments that are now industry gold dust.
Over the course of the morning, DCM launched its new ‘Start with Cinema’ campaign and introduced some new tools that will allow brands to integrate the big screen more easily into their media planning.
There was a welcome address from CEO Karen Stacey in which she thanked everyone for supporting cinema after a challenging couple of years. Presentations from other members of the DCM team (namely Michael Tull, Michael Bensley, and Tom Linay) focused on the “big future for the big screen”, showcasing forthcoming tent pole releases, and examined the best ways to integrate cinema into advertising spend. Building on that, Sophie Gale-Evans introduced DCM’s new AV Maximiser Tool and Effectiveness Roadmap.
The event also included an In Conversation session between distribution-veteran Neil Marshall (Head of Theatrical Film Distribution, Local Film Production and Acquisition, Warner Bros.), Karen Stacey, and an expert panel discussion with Matthew Hook (Hook Strategy), Chetan Murphy (Chief Strategy Officer, Bountiful Cow), Dan Plant (Chief Strategy Officer, Starcom), and Vicky Fox (Chief Planning Officer, OMD).
And, for some of that much-touted theatrical magic, attendees were treated to an exclusive sneak-peak of some of Warner Bros.’ forthcoming theatrical slate.
So, what were the biggest talking points from this jam-packed schedule?
- ‘Start with Cinema’: From DCM’s point of view, there was only one message with which they wanted agencies and advertisers to go home: “start with cinema”. It’s certainly a nice catchy phrase, but what does it actually mean? The idea here is that the big screen provides brands with something other media don’t, and should therefore be a starting point for any new adverts. DCM argues that starting exclusively with cinema creates scarcity and buzz, and provides a sense of prestige that’s otherwise missing from everyday devices. Based on research DCM had commissioned, cinema seems to be a particularly good place to launch something new – a new product, a new campaign or a new brand message. Evidence suggests that messages delivered in cinemas are more likely to embed themselves within a consumer’s memory, which in turn drives brand and product awareness. Brands, therefore, have the time to connect emotionally with audiences in a dark cinema auditorium in a way that is not possible with snappy, seconds-long adverts on smaller devices.
- The future for theatrical is bright: Hardly a ground-breaking message from DCM – a company whose business is the silver screen – but there was a genuine feeling of optimism coming from the stage, not least from Warner Bros.’ Neil Marshall, who promised that cinema is “part of the DNA of the studio now” and that CEO David Zaslav is an “evangelist” for the theatrical experience. Marshall suggested that the day-and-date release strategies that the then-Warner Media adopted during COVID lockdowns were “always going to be a temporary measure” and that the company has always believed in the importance of theatrical for both audiences and filmmakers. This means it is no longer creating any ‘made for streaming’ movies, but it will continue to research and test the life cycle of a release and use that information to decide what works best for audiences. Separately, recent commitments to traditional theatrical release strategies from Apple and Amazon were seen as further consolidation of cinema’s starry future. Indeed, Marshall mentioned how well Warner’s distribution deal with Amazon had worked for the release of Ben Affleck’s “Air”.
- “Barbie” & cultural moments: The DCM team, the expert panel, and Neil Marshall, all mentioned at various points how cinema has an ability to create buzz and build anticipation that is utterly unique. These kind of ‘water cooler’ moments are increasingly difficult to capture in our ever-more fragmented media ecosystem and cinema has time and again proven itself able to ‘eventize’ IP like no other medium. Almost everyone who spoke – but particularly Marshall – referred to the forthcoming release of “Barbie” as a prime-example of how a cinematic release can tap into the national conversation and capture the zeitgeist. Marshall noted that when Warner Bros. released the first on-set stills of Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as Barbie and Ken, the team couldn’t believe the level of engagement online, which has snowballed ever since. And box office tracking figures were extraordinary before the traditional marketing campaign had even started. According to DCM, cinema offers brands a chance to share in this ‘blockbuster feeling’ and be part of the collective excitement.
- What agencies & advertisers want: During the expert panel discussion, Vicky Fox called for more data for agencies and advertisers so that it is easier to see where cinema should fit within an advertising strategy. The more information they have, the easier it is to show the benefit of theatrical to media planners. From this point of view, some of DCM’s new tools coming on stream (like the AV maximiser) should be very helpful. Panellists also suggested that there could be more room for experimentation, particularly for brands who are integrating theatrical into their campaign for the first time and would like to “dip their toe in the water”.
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