One of my first jobs out of college was selling airtime for ITV in London during the reign of King Charles II. I was terrible at selling airtime but was really good at guesstimating the ratings. I had a real feel for what would be popular and watched countless hours of TV. I was in tune with the medium. “Center break of A COUNTRY PRACTICE on Wednesday? 3.2 households. Easy!”. I could “feel” the audience attention like sand running through my fingers. I loved that part of it. Knowing what turned on other people turned me on. I have never lost that.

As I have watched everyone’s attention get splintered by the internet, I have been utterly fascinated. The internet has now been reduced to three sites: facebook, twitter, and that site you like a lot. Unfortunately those sites aren’t hospitable to advertising and internet advertising is annoying anyway. advertising doesn’t REALLY BELONG there. Problem. Huge problem.

Years ago I remember thinking that the antidote to the internet would be outdoor (or more correctly OUT OF HOME) advertising. Everyone’s got to leave their house and look around them at some point. And increasingly I’m thinking I was right. And one of the biggest opportunities here creatively has to be cinema advertising.

We’ve had some luck with this medium. The great thing about cinema is that people are in truly optimal viewing conditions. They have actually paid money to stare at a screen for 90 minutes. And you are part of that viewing experience. You are on that screen. That’s a big responsibility creatively speaking. What you show these people had better be good viewing. In this viewing situation their enjoyment of your film has to come before your marketing agenda. You have to be delicate here.

In the UK, they used to treat cinema as its own discrete medium. Separate, more epic and entertaining creative executions. Separate media budget. This was the big show. The funny epic cinematic ads were part of the cinema experience in Europe. TV was the main show culturally speaking, but the lesser opportunity executionally. And this remains the case. You cannot beat cinema. You HAVE the audience. monstrous screen. awesome sound system. It’s like the Superbowl. But much better. And it happens every day!

Cinema going is still very popular. And Hollywood has been plying its craft for a very long time. They know what they’re doing. And as the easy money of DVD sales peters out, look for them to come out swinging. 3D movies, 4D, 5D movies, whatever!

Here is a cinema spot we produced for client OfficeMax a couple of years ago. It’s 53 seconds long. Why 53 seconds? Because that was the optimal time length to tell the story. Can’t do that on TV! This was a trip to watch on the big screen with 5.1 surround sound.

And here is a more recent 2:15 cinema ad for client Lunchables.

2:15. That sounds like a lot of time but really it isn’t.


  1. To me, that second paragraph nails it. This has been my frustration the last couple years, especially freelancing with “digital agencies.”

    There is zero respect for the consumer – viewer – user. I’ve never heard anyone question if it’s good for the brand. Or if it will even sell anything at all. And if you bring it up, you just get a blank stare. It’s just find new way, place to slap an ad. Sure there’s talk of ‘engaging’ the consumer, and consumer driven content. But me, the consumer, doesn’t want to be friends with Cottenelle or any other house hold cleaner.

    Besides your website, and giving away free stuff, stay the hell out of my internet experience. And no I don’t give you permission to send me ads.

    But I might watch a funny video on YouTube. That I will do. I also like games.

    That and when I’m on the Internet, I’m usually also watching TV. Not sure what that means, but just thought I’d throw it out there.

    The OfficeMax video is beautiful by the way.

  2. New York must be wearing off on me. Sorry if that was a bit ranty. Still love advertising.

  3. You are very observant Vinny. The way I explain social media is we are talking in my living room. The only accepted advertising is TV when its on and we ignore it half the time. Don’t invade my living without permission or value. oh and my phone? Now your entering my bedroom. Back off. Opt In only. Kind of like sex. No is No!

    My Agency theme is reaching people in unique ways. Since half of what brands pay for is having someone see your ad (even if it sucks). Because it is a crap shoot. And so I spend my time looking where I have to see Ads, so when I advise clients I can show value.

    Unfortunately the places people are trapped have either limited reach or limited volume. Subway cars are number 1! No one looks at each other only the walls. Jameson has done up some NYC cars completely Jameson. Train station platforms are another. Inside elevators. Etc. My collegiate service is great if it ever gets off the ground reaching into classrooms but it only works for Collegiate! Billboards are ok. They are very hit or miss and fleeting.

    Then of course Sky Writing at the beach.

    Lastly I have debunked many of the numbers Facebook and Twitter ‘highlight’ that their own stats prove wrong. For example if I log into Facebook and leave it up in a window all day, yet only view it for 10 minutes, they record ‘all day’ and they don’t break out Farmville numbers LOL. Remember they want to go IPO and a lot of pressure to do so. The actual number per person of activities on Facebook is pitiful and 2 of 3 consumers in the US are not using social media each day.

  4. yes howie. you can FEEL the IPO pressure from Facebook. $500 million a year profit is not enough? hey zuckerberg, maybe it is! he’s trying to be google. big mistake. be facebook. think about me and howie.

    out of home is the future!!!

  5. strongly agree with internet theory. strongly. problem is – you mention this to the client you’re losing poitns fast. and I mean super-fast. you’re dinosaur. you’re retirement. you’re in animation room. your pulse is hardly noticable.
    luckily there are some havens of sanity in our advertising world. like this blog.

    I also like cinema. for two things.
    first is the lenght. second is audience’s willingness.
    very underrated medium.
    just think of St. Mungo’s “Remember me?” ad. the best ever.

  6. BTW I forgot to acknowledge that the cinema is also on my list of trapped places. Plans and buses come close but planes there i no sound. And buses you look out the window.

    In LA a theater chain opened up called Arclight. It costs more. They guarantee no pre-movie commercials and they have a bar. also you get an assigned seat and if your late too bad. Doors are shut see ya later no disturbing the film show.

  7. Riki, thanks for the kind words. here’s the thing. after all the internet dust has settled, people are still people. and most brands simply aren’t exciting. and film is still the best way to tell a story. and no, i don’t want to interact with your brand. i have better things to do. like doing nothing at all for example. nobody gives a shit. nobody ever has. that was the problem in 1990 in 2000 and in 2010. and it will be the problem in 2020.

    and i remember that brilliant ad. loved it. tony kaye directed?

  8. don’t know who directed it.
    all I know is that it blew me away. still remains a reference of the power of cinema.

  9. yep. Tony Kaye. back when he was still Tony Kaye

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