Don't be surprised to see images of your favorite cars on large, illuminated boards in lobbies or on popcorn containers when you go to the movies this summer. It will be the next bit of exposure offered by National Cinema Network to automakers trying to reach captive audiences on a more intimate basis.
Since 1997, NCN, a Kansas City, Mo., cinema advertising company, has been selling 30- and 60-second spots to carmakers that are shown on the Two Minute Countdown - the two-minute segment prior to the beginning of the movie. Two recent clients were Lincoln Mercury and Nissan, which ran movie campaigns from December to late January.
Lincoln Mercury's 30-second commercial ran on 38 screens in Minneapolis to boost the Mercury Sable. Nissan ran its 30-second spots on hundreds of screens in the top 11 markets as part of its prelaunch promotion for the new Sentra, which will go on sale this summer. The campaigns were part of a larger push for both Nissan and Lincoln Mercury that includes promotional events at local retailers that will run through spring.
'With movies, you have a captive audience that is in an observation mode,' says Mark Norman, the Twin Cities regional manager for Lincoln Mercury, adding that the division chose Minneapolis for the promotion because Buick, a major rival, does very well in the Twin Cities area.
Adds Peter Goodwin, corporate advertising manager for Nissan and Infiniti: 'We know younger consumers go to movies, and we need to bring down the age of our consumers.'
Neither Lincoln Mercury nor Nissan could select specific films for advertising. They had to take all screens represented by National Cinema Network in a particular market, or none. The company represents more than 12,000 screens nationwide for cinema giants such as General Cinema, American Multi Cinema and Cinemark. The countdown is shown on 6,500 of those screens.
Laura Adler, vice president of marketing for National Cinema Network, says costs to automakers can range from about $300,000 to several million dollars, depending on the number of screens used and the time frame.
Other brands that have used National Cinema Network are Ford, BMW and Toyota. Nissan used the cinemas to promote the Xterra and Maxima last year. Goodwin says he will do a launch assessment for the Xterra and Maxima to see how consumers learned of the products.
Says Goodwin: 'The creative challenge is that the spot must be as good as the movie; we don't want to get booed or have people turn away during the spots.'