This is “upfront” week in New York City, as the broadcast and cable TV networks unveil details of their 2012-13 seasons to current and potential advertising clients with the help of their star personalities. But a network of another kind has invaded their turf this year: NCM Media Networks, the integrated media company whose major draw is its ability to showcase advertiser content on the big screens of the three top movie theatre circuits in the country, Regal, AMC and Cinemark, plus their 30 affiliates.
NCM hosted its first-ever upfront at the AMC Lincoln Square theatre complex on the Upper West Side, where president of sales and marketing Cliff Marks declared that NCM ranks number seven among all networks in terms of reaching consumers aged 18 to 49, and number one on the weekends. The program cheekily opened with a fanfare for the Rock of Ages trailer presented on…a lowly smart-phone, dwarfed by the huge screen at Lincoln Square’s largest auditorium. Similar fanfares followed the trailer’s appearance on a tablet and a flat-screen TV, and finally the preview rocked out in all its Spandex glory on the cinema screen. The point was obvious, but understandably irresistible to make.
Along with that big canvas for product pitches, Marks reminded the crowd that the movie theatre offers a more focused environment, pared of the many distractions that come with home viewing (with the exception of those annoying ADD types who insist on texting or Net-surfing during the movie). “People pay for a ticket—they want to be entertained,” he noted of the distinction between home viewing and a trip to the cinema. “We watch TV, but we go to the movies.”
Also taking advantage of the contrast between the movie theatre and what’s available on cable, executive VP of sales and marketing Dave Kupiec called the cinema “the ultimate movie channel—and it’s always first-run.”
For those who still resist the notion of commercials preceding the main feature, NCM is adding more entertainment appeal to its Cinema Network preshow. The company announced three new exclusive original content deals. Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s popular Funny or Die web franchise will produce customized comedy content for NCM’s “FirstLook” preshow, which will also appear on NCM’s online and mobile platforms. For the upfront, Funny or Die prepared a very droll faux history (going back to the 19th century!) of the two preshow partners. Watch it here.
For music fans, NCM is partnering with VEVO, a top music-video platform, to create sponsored music programming for both the big screen and online. And foodies will get their fix with “A Taste of the Movies”™, branded cooking segments in which celebrity chefs will show how to prepare great meals inspired by classic movies. Famed chef Mario Batali was on hand for the upfront and prepared a “Taste of The Godfather” lunch for all the attendees. (Batali and Cliff Marks are pictured at left.)
NCM also highlighted its new CinemaSync mobile technology, which already boasts more that 1.2 million downloads. NCM’s Movie Night Out with CinemaSync app is billed as “the premier second-screen movie app,” using image and audio recognition technology to sync with everything in the theatre environment. From movie posters and concessions to the FirstLook pre-show, CinemaSync can deliver extended content, coupons and other value-added deals directly to moviegoers on their mobile phones.
As proof that the right commercial can actually be a welcome addition to the preshow, Kupiec screened a Kia car commercial created for the Super Bowl whose high production values really popped on the Lincoln Square screen. His argument that a spot for Cascade dish detergent is also suitable for a night at the movies was less persuasive, but the stats showed impressive recall rates from both commercials’ exposure in cinemas.
Some advertisers are also making an extra effort by integrating their message with tie-ins with upcoming movies. The U.S. Army did it with X-Men: First Class, and Carter’s, the children’s clothing line, has an onscreen campaign linked with the new comedy What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Both spots were shown at the upfront.
For the finale, NCM showed advertisers what 3D can do for them, with high-gloss spots from Lexus and Fuji’s new 3D camera (followed by the action-packed trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man). Big screen? 3D? If an advertiser really wants to reach out to the public, it’s hard to imagine a better alternative.