Media: Double Standards - 'I can speak at length about Bollywood and digital'

Two players in the film industry reveal what their favourite flick is, whether ticket prices in London are good value, and who some of the new cinema advertisers are.

ALLISTER MCDONALD, DIRECTOR, OMD UK

What have been the best cinema innovations for advertisers this year?

Off-screen gives you a great opportunity to connect with the audience in ever-more engaging ways. We were the first to use Bluetooth technology in cinema foyers, enabling people to access user-generated Channel 4 content, "FourDocs", through their mobile phones.

Would a single, consolidated sales point benefit both the medium and advertisers?

Cinema is a 1 per cent medium with one sales point already representing around 75 per cent of admissions. A single sales point would have to balance its relationships with both agencies and exhibitors carefully. Overall, a move to a single sales point would probably be more of a concern for the exhibitors, rather than advertisers.

Can you name new advertisers that you have brought into cinema, and which sectors are driving the medium right now?

The key sectors for volume are cars, telecoms, entertainment and food and drink. We've bought several new advertisers to cinema this year, including AXA and Heat. We've combined this activity with research and have been pleased with the results.

How concerned are you by the limited growth in cinema admissions?

We'd always be happier to see more growth. We're predicting this year's admissions to be down by 4.4 per cent. However, 2007 looks much more promising; we'll see some strong growth year on year. With no step changes planned in the number of screens, any growth is going to be driven by the strength of releases.

Is progress too slow in the development of digital cinema technology?

The studios, distributors and exhibitors do not have a clear plan for funding the roll-out of digital. While there are benefits for advertisers with digital, these are commercially small when compared with the capital cost of the infrastructure which is needed.

How much has the "Eat Cinema" digital TV channel achieved its goals?

Audiences remain relatively small, in part due to its distribution. With so much fragmentation on TV, attracting a large audience is hard for any broadcaster. I don't have Sky at home, so Film 2006 on the Beeb would be my choice.

Do you think that ticket prices at London cinemas are too high?

The public decide this by voting with their feet. Rolling annual shares in London and the South are down versus the national average, so ticket prices could well be a factor.

How much of a threat to the future of cinema is illegal internet downloading of film content and legitimate video-on-demand services?

Piracy is already a big problem, and with broadband penetration on the increase, illegal downloads will become an issue. The exclusive theatrical release period has always allowed cinema to compete with in-home viewing for movies. If this period gets reduced considerably, then cinema admissions would be affected.

How hard is it buying or selling a niche medium?

Both sales teams work really hard to get cinema on schedules. We've got an increasing wealth of research about the effect of cinema advertising, so we can justify what cinema brings to a campaign.

What's the best film you've seen this year?

The Departed.

KATHRYN JACOB, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, PEARL & DEAN

What have been the best cinema innovations for advertisers this year?

The increasing focus on engagement and the off-screen opportunities. I thought the Timotei campaign was a fantastic example of how we can create communications that cover both areas (there were experience areas in foyers, plus sampling).

Would a single, consolidated sales point benefit both the medium and advertisers?

I'm not sure that consolidation is the right question to be asking. The issue facing all media owners is how can you fully contribute to your clients' effectiveness, and what more can we do to help agencies maximise what cinema can offer.

Can you name new advertisers that you have brought into cinema, and which sectors are driving the medium right now?

We've brought a number in at different levels. Sectors which are key are motors, entertainment and telecoms.

How concerned are you by the limited growth in cinema admissions?

It is limited, but it is growth, and there's more diversity. This is good news for clients.

Is progress too slow in the development of digital cinema technology?

It depends on your view. The compression and piracy issues were only resolved relatively recently. The distributors are the key. The interesting element is how the UK Film Council's work can help grow British cinema and also the way it can address minority audiences. I can speak at length about Bollywood and digital!

How much has the "Eat Cinema" digital TV channel achieved its goals?

It's hard to differentiate in a multi-channel environment. Personally, I found the execution didn't reflect what film can offer, so I wasn't a regular viewer.

Do you think that ticket prices at London cinemas are too high?

London is one of the most expensive cities in the world - so the prices are relative. You can't put a price on you and your girlfriends giggling away at The Devil Wears Prada!

How much of a threat to the future of cinema is illegal internet downloading of film content and legitimate video-on-demand services?

Piracy is a major issue for cinema. If no-one pays to see a film, eventually you will get the product you deserve, ie. none. Video-on-demand will address an audience that can't physically go to the cinema as much as they want. It will still be at a premium price for viewing at the same time as theatrical releases. However, viewing an event movie such as Spiderman 3 on a PC or high-spec TV won't ever be the same as seeing it in the cinema.

How hard is it buying or selling a niche medium?

It's not hard to sell if you understand your audiences and your clients. You may need to work a little harder, but you get to see films for free. Buying is being made simpler by initiatives such as "Touchpoints" and its role in explaining cinema's contribution to schedules.

What's the best film you've seen this year?

I've seen too many to pick just one, but I loved Good Night, and Good Luck (fantastic allegory with today) and, for sheer fun, The Devil Wears Prada.

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