SPOTLIGHT ON: CINEMA - Carlton US spin-off sees room for growth in cinema medium. Could cinema advertising be going global? Alasdair Reid hears Carlton’s plans

It’s obvious when you think about it. Carlton Communications owns Technicolor, which not only produces film stock and other technical services for the film business but actually duplicates and distributes copies of feature films to all US cinemas. And Carlton also knows a thing or two about cinema advertising because it owns the medium’s largest sales house in the UK, Carlton Screen Advertising.

It’s obvious when you think about it. Carlton Communications owns

Technicolor, which not only produces film stock and other technical

services for the film business but actually duplicates and distributes

copies of feature films to all US cinemas. And Carlton also knows a

thing or two about cinema advertising because it owns the medium’s

largest sales house in the UK, Carlton Screen Advertising.



Put the two together and what do you have? You have Technicolor

Entertainment, that’s what. Technicolor Entertainment is to be the name

of the group’s cinema advertising operation in the US, which will be

launched on 1 October and headed by Adam Poulter, currently Carlton

Screen Advertising’s chief executive. There are also plans to rebrand

the UK operation and use the Technicolor Entertainment banner to launch

cinema advertising operations around the world.



The underlying belief is that cinema is a seriously underexploited

medium - and the US, according to Carlton sources, is a prime case in

point.



Cinema over there is a regional medium and you can understand why.

Without the logistics in place - the Technicolor distribution network -

getting the right advertising copy to the right places at the right time

across a country the size of the US would have been a nightmare.



But the logistics of the advertising operation are actually about to

become even easier. Last week, Carlton bought Real Image Digital, which

is pioneering the digital electronic distribution of movies for

theatrical screening. Cinema is about to evolve beyond celluloid. To

talk of ’film’ will soon be as anachronistic as talking about ’dialling’

a telephone number.



All of which means it can be done, but will this interest US national

advertisers - the ones that now use network TV? Lisa Seward, media

director of Fallon McElligott in Minneapolis, agrees with the Carlton

assessment that there is plenty of potential for growth in US cinema

advertising.



She explains: ’Several years ago there was strong sensitivity to the

risk of audiences not liking ads before their movies, but this seems to

have diminished markedly lately. Personally, I think there is more

potential for cinema here. Increasingly, advertisers are seeking ways to

break out of more cluttered media - out-of-home advertising, for

instance, has benefited from this. And as consumers become more and more

accepting of cinema ads, I think more cinema companies will sign

up.’



Seward has one reservation - she’d like to buy cinema by movie title,

instead of by screen, which is how the system now operates on both sides

of the Atlantic. And that, potentially, would suit Technicolor

Entertainment just fine, because its long-term ambition is to sell the

cinema medium internationally. Its belief is that Hollywood films are

global products.



It’s the most international medium there is.



But is it? Some in the business believe they’ve heard that sort of thing

before. The outdoor industry has begun toying with internationalism -

the medium’s lack of editorial content means there are no linguistic

barriers and a poster is a poster wherever you are in the world.

Magazines like Elle and Cosmopolitan are franchised around the globe.

Time Warner and the Murdoch empire have both set up international

advertising sales offices in New York. But we’ve yet to see a stampede

of advertisers desperate to do international media deals.



Is the international angle a genuine opportunity? Iain Jacob, executive

director of Motive Communications, says it could be possible. He says:

’The selling of cinema in the UK is more sophisticated than you’ll find

in most other major markets, so Carlton’s move to export that expertise

is a very positive business opportunity. However, in the short term they

are unlikely to be able to bring a multinational sell to clients because

you have to sort things out on a local basis before you can look at a

bigger picture.’



Jacob argues that some clients are now willing and able to look at that

picture too - media owners have merely failed to grasp the

opportunity.



’The frustration is that big media owners tend to present clients with a

list of everything they do without selling the tangible benefits of

using it,’ he comments. And he adds that it could genuinely work in

cinema because some advertisers are already effectively running the same

copy at the same moment across a whole region. ’You could certainly talk

to clients about their use of cinema on a regional basis. And yes, that

might be interesting if it was on the basis of an advertiser associating

with particular films. I like that idea.’