Can cinema be sold along similar lines to TV airtime trading?
Carlton’s timing could have been better. Not so long ago, the notion of
trying to make cinema advertising sales a bit more like television
airtime sales must have seemed a pretty sound idea.
Last week, Carlton announced that it was going to do just that to Cinema
Media, the sales house it acquired during the summer (Campaign, 1
November). It’s hardly a surprise that a TV company would want to
transfer its core business expertise to new areas. But to announce its
intentions during one of the biggest trading scandals ever to hit the TV
market is, to say the least, unfortunate.
Cinema Media is beefing up its sales team by drafting in top Carlton TV
sales talent. Debbie Chalet, formerly an account director at Carlton UK
Sales, becomes the sales director of Cinema Media; Peter Barrett, a
Carlton account manager, becomes sales controller; and Jane Rumsey moves
across to handle client sales, a similar role to the one she has filled
on the TV side.
The team, which will report to Adam Poulter, the managing director of
Cinema Media, will have the task of overhauling the way cinema is sold
to advertisers. Not only will it be sold more like other media, but the
new team will want to liaise closely with former colleagues on the
airtime sales side.
Should this set alarm bells ringing in the planning and buying
community? Robert McIntosh, the deputy media director of Lowe Howard-
Spink, says Cinema Media staffers will be making a mistake if they
behave like Carlton TV sales people. ‘Cinema doesn’t have anything like
the monopoly situation they have in TV,’ he points out.
‘We all know that conditional selling doesn’t exist, of course, but I
think they will find it easier to have conversations involving
terrestrial TV and the Carlton Select cable sales house than between TV
and cinema. Cinema is a totally different sell - more like magazines,
where you focus on the impact of the environment.’
Richard Bevan, the joint media director of Leo Burnett, concedes a
change in the way cinema is sold is inevitable. ‘Little can compare with
cinema for impact but it has never been sold to its full potential,’ he
says. ‘Conditional selling would be a mistake but there has to be the
option for talking about creative communications options across
‘If they intend to introduce the equivalent of TV ratings to the medium
that will be interesting. We will be keen to see what they come up
Poulter says nothing has been set in stone as yet - and that he welcomes
feedback from agencies - but he can confirm that, from now on, the
cinema sell will be far more reliant on audience figures. The
cornerstone of this approach will be a new admissions data system,
courtesy of the EDI research company. ‘We have a phenomenally successful
product that is currently undersold,’ he asserts.
‘In September, there were no new releases but almost eight million
people still went to the cinema. It hasn’t always been possible to make
the value of that audience available to advertisers.’
And Poulter wants to reassure the market that he has no intention of
introducing nasty surprises such as conditional selling or pre-empting
ratecards for screens in heavy demand. ‘You don’t have the leverage to
do those things when you have less than 1 per cent of the advertising
market,’ he says.
‘We’re not going to sell cinema as a dirt cheap bolt-on to other
discussions and we’re hardly going to attempt to jeopardise a big TV
deal. What I will say, though, to those people who want to have
discussions at a high level about all the media that Carlton represents
- we can give them access to that.’