National CineMedia CEO Touts Big-Screen Advertising Closer to Movies

Courtesy of National CineMedia
Tom Lesinski

"There's more people in the theaters. The lights are down, your phones are off, you're paying more attention to the advertising," Tom Lesinski told an investors conference about ads mixed in with trailers at the local multiplex.

In-theater advertising firm National CineMedia on Wednesday touted a new way to boost revenues: Run big-screen commercials closer to movie screenings and among trailers at the local multiplex. 

"There's more people in the theaters. The lights are down, your phones are off, you're paying more attention to the advertising," National CineMedia CEO Tom Lesinski told the Citi 2020 Global TMT Conference in Las Vegas during a session that was webcast.

Typically, movie theaters have run around 20 minutes of advertising before trailers and ahead of advertised showtimes, but National Cinemedia recently introduced a "platinum spot" for advertising, usually up to one minute long, to play just before the second-to-last or final movie trailer and closer to a feature attraction.

Lesinski touted the new advertising segments now in place at Regal Cinemas and Cinemark Theatres venues for earning a premium from marketers as the play to a captive theater audience unable to zap ads or surf the internet as happens with in-home movie viewing. National CineMedia has also introduced a “preshow" program of onscreen ads to run for five minutes past the posted movie showtime.

"We've created six minutes of super-valuable inventory and we've had a lot of success selling that inventory in the fourth quarter," the exec reported. And he added that the new onscreen advertising shuffle is finding acceptance with moviegoers.

"We haven't had a lot of pushback from people complaining about the advertising," Lesinski said of preshow and post-show ad programming more recently introduced in the U.S. market after being featured for some time in cinemas in Canada, Europe and Latin America.

The National CineMedia boss also told investors not to expect political advertising at the local multiplex as the 2020 U.S. presidential election nears. "It would be really disruptive," Lesinski said of the decision not to run big-screen campaign ads.

But he added that, in key swing states, where local TV stations have seen virtually their entire advertising inventories already bought up by competing political campaigns, the local cinema is a ready alternative for marketers.

"If you're really trying to make a big push in Ohio, we can deliver that audience," Lesinski told advertisers looking for premium screen time.