In November last year we received the disturbing news that AC Nielsen (ACN) intended to suspend reporting cinema ad spend as part of the Ad Dynamix service. Immediately I thought, surely not! They should be improving the reporting on the problem segments rather than running away from them.
I re-read the release in disbelief. While cinema reporting has not been accurate since Cinemark lost the Nu Metro circuit, it’s been better than nothing. With effort, I’m sure the advertising industry could have found a solution. The notification was circulated to the industry by the ACN team advising us that, after consultation with industry members (Who exactly? Surely not just Popcorn and Cinemark?), the reporting would be suspended because it wasn’t at the standard it should be. The notification stated that all back data will be set at zero on the AdDynamix database when the September 2012 data was released.
Inside sources suggested that the investment data supplied was too low due to the availability of packages and a heavily discounted model. This, ACN believed, resulted in cinema being undervalued!
I’m sorry, but if those are the facts, then live with it!
There was even concern that reporting was anti-competitive in that the process effectively provided competitors with a client list to target.
I just don’t buy it.
Firstly, if media owners want to offer heavily discounted packages (in this case the Golden Reel), then the fact remains that the results reflect the advertiser investment. No one expects the actual rates to be shared, but since these packages have set rates, these should be reflected.
Popcorn, for whatever reason, has never supplied the data. Instead of investing time and effort in trying to appease Cinemark, ACN would be better advised to try including the Nu Metro billing.
But the real losers in this situation are the clients, marketers and, ironically, ACN’s customers.
By all means explore options to improve cinema reporting, but I see no reason to discontinue it. In my experience it’s easier to fix something that still exists than it is to resuscitate a failed project. What’s the urgency and why would another month or two make such a difference? Does the cinema industry really expect sales to continue when marketers can’t back their choices with actual return on investment figures?
We all know that Ad Dynamix is not 100% accurate, but it nevertheless offers the industry an objective measure so that, while universally incorrect, we at least have data to work with and can trace trends using the same criteria year on year. Media agencies and marketers need the data, and more so now than ever.
From a media platform perspective, if cinema is not being reported, it stands a very real risk of falling off the radar. There’s the old saying that if it cannot be measured then it does not matter. I agree with this. I keep being told that cinema attendance is up but Media Inflation Watch (MIW) performance figures (based on ticket sales) show a different picture. In the absence of independent data, you simply cannot believe anything you’re told.
For example: The 2011 versus 2010 first quarter comparison shows that despite the fact that cinema ticket sales declined by 22.4% (year on year) cinema rates went up by 5.8% resulting in a MIW index of a whopping 36.3%. The comparison for the half year to June 2011 shows that the decline in ticket sales had slowed to only -12%.
The current half year performance (January – June 2012) data, however, reflects a stable ticket sales position but a concerning19.9% increase in rates. We need more data rather than no data.
A bumpy road ahead
The way forward has been decided upon between the two major cinema media owners, who claim they’ve had discussions with key decision makers.
Who exactly have they discussed it with? Certainly not our group. Marketers and media agencies are the people who need to be involved in these discussions. We need the full picture and right now all we have is a cropped view.
If we simply sit back and say ”so cinema wants to stop reporting and that’s okay”, what’s to stop other media types from following suit? Right now, we can still get TV, radio, and digital figures from other sources and, while they may be inaccurate, it’s still better than nothing. But if we allow other media platforms to follow suit, there are serious and major implications for the rest of the industry.
It’s very easy to correct the current inaccuracy of cinema reporting by asking each media agency to provide their rate card rates of cinema investment over the past 12 months. By doing this, we’d get about 99% of the data we need.
I don’t think the implications have been properly thought through and it’s hard to believe that Popcorn, Cinemark and ACN think it’s their decision to make.
Once advertisers withdraw from the cinema platform, it will be extremely difficult or nearly impossible to draw them back. Let’s hope that by the time you read this, common sense has prevailed and we’ve got hard data to back up the medium. If not, cinema runs the very real risk of becoming a ‘dark science’.
Gordon Patterson is the chairman of VivaKi South Africa and group MD of the Starcom MediaVest Group.
This story was first published in the January 2013 issue of The Media magazine.