In a world where it's increasingly hard to reach certain audiences, cinema can be used as a targeted channel – it delivers niche audiences and the opportunity for proximity-based strategies.

Brand and performance marketing are often set up as polar opposites. The disciplines sit in different departments and are usually treated as separate budget lines. This divide has media implications with certain channels more closely aligned with one or the other. TV, outdoor and cinema are often associated with brand building, whilst digital display, search and social are associated with performance-driven outcomes.

The recent debate between Peter Field and Brain Wieser at the Future of TV Advertising conference in London serves to underline this debate. Peter is a strong advocate of TV for its long-term brand-building abilities, while Brian chose to question this perceived advantage.  

I’d like to argue this is a false and unhelpful dichotomy and a missed opportunity for more holistic planning. The reality is channels aren’t brand or performance; they simply need to be deployed differently to achieve these distinct objectives. Many legacy brand-building channels are increasingly addressable and the relationship between search investment and brand outcomes is well understood and exploited.

We know from the brilliant work of effectiveness experts such as Binet and Field and Grace Kite that brand drives performance and performance marketing can impact on brand.

This relationship is clearly demonstrated here in this e-commerce data from Magic Numbers. The data shows that the click-through rate improves when a brand has a high reputation score.

Despite this evidence it’s common practice to approach a performance or a brand brief with default assumptions about the channel mix. If we approach a brief with these preconceptions we are missing out on opportunities to innovate. Surely we should be testing and learning, basing media selection on results not heuristics that may be outdated? A stand-off between brand building and performance media makes for good headlines, but the less attention-grabbing story is that getting the media mix right is the best way to improve effectiveness in the short and the long term.

Cinema provides an attentive audience and presents the opportunity for high-quality creative, and these characteristics traditionally put it squarely in the brand-building camp. A study by Ebiquity finds that cinema is the best channel for triggering a positive emotional response and Kantar’s effectiveness work shows brand impact increases when cinema is included in the AV mix.

Cinema is probably the channel that you would least expect to be pushing against the brand/performance divide. However, many savvy advertisers have seen successful sales activation outcomes as a consequence of their cinema investment.

For example, wagamama discovered the power of cinema to deliver incremental revenue growth by taking a test-and-learn approach. It conducted a regional test across six UK cities experimenting with drive times to deliver the campaign in proximity of its restaurants. This approach converted interest into action in a short time frame – something wagamama was able to see through its measurement programme. In this award-winning IPA effectiveness case study, cinema was found to be responsible for 60% of the incremental sales delivered.

Deliveroo leveraged the full cinema experience combining 30-second spots in cherry-picked films with mobile geofenced targeting. This reinforced the in-cinema message, closing the consumer journey and driving post-film takeaway orders. Meanwhile, Cancer Research UK optimised performance during a campaign by deploying copy rotation. Consequently, nine out of ten donations from its cinema campaign were at the higher £10 donation level.

These examples demonstrate that even a channel with strong brand-building credentials can be used to drive performance if the right tactics and data are deployed.

Brands that are seeing successful activation outcomes are often using DCMs Cine mapper tool. This tool allows you to map a client’s catchment area, or stores to their nearest cinema based on distance in miles or drive time. Brands can add a tailored five-second end frame to their main ad, delivering a national message with a local touch.

Savvy brands are also exploiting detailed cinema data in their marketing effectiveness work to help them understand with better accuracy how cinema is delivering in the short and long term. Daily admissions data independently corroborated and available by postcode can be used as an input into econometric models.

These case studies and tools go to show that cinema can be used as a targeted channel. It delivers niche audiences and the opportunity for proximity-based strategies. With the rise of subscription TV and the proliferation of audio-visual formats that compete with long-form AV content, it’s increasingly important to consider the role of cinema with light TV viewers. That’s why many advertisers could benefit from using cinema as part of their AV mix.

All too often budgetary decisions get made on the basis of trends rather than evidence. The media landscape is experiencing some fundamental shifts with commercial media usage declining. In the midst of this change and complexity, simple rules or heuristics often loom large in decision making. However, the reality is that we shouldn’t default to chasing the platforms where consumers spend the most time. Time spent doesn’t always equate to attention to advertising or positive effectiveness outcomes.

Instead, I believe we should be prioritising investment decisions around effectiveness in the short and the long term. Crucially this doesn’t need to be a binary decision about channel selection. Smart planning and tactical deployment mean that cinema, like many other channels, can be deployed to deliver against both objectives.