MEDIA: SPOTLIGHT ON; CINEMA AD SALES: Bad timing, but Carlton could still transform cinema selling

Can cinema be sold along similar lines to TV airtime trading?

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

different media.



‘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

with.’



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.’



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