Digital Cinema Media: 10 years of change in the advertising world

Ten years ago, Digital Cinema Media (DCM) was formed. Its input has helped cement the strength of the exhibitor’s offer — CEO Karen Stacey reflects on the power of cinema as an advertising medium.

Words: Karen Stacey


Ten years ago, Carlton Screen Advertising was sold by ITV, with Cineworld and Odeon forming a joint venture to run cinema advertising under a new company, Digital Cinema Media (DCM). Today, DCM makes up 82% the UK’s cinema advertising marketplace, representing Cineworld and Odeon, as well as working with Vue, Picturehouse, Everyman, Curzon and more than 160 independents. It has been an impressive journey.


A digital revolution

Despite the forward-looking name, DCM only converted to a fully digital operation in 2012. For cinema, there used to be a slow and tedious process of lengthy reel assembly and distribution, often hand-delivered by couriers, with a 3-4-week lead time. One of our biggest achievements has been digitisation, which means we are now able to offer an accountable and transparent process to our customers.


Cinema’s digital revolution saw advertising move quickly from film, to hard drive, to USB and ultimately broadband delivery in a short space of time. Lead times have been shortened to under a week, with electronic distribution offering greater flexibility for advertisers, who are now able to target by film, by showing, by cinema and by time across our whole estate, meaning cinemas can compete on even terms with TV and other media, including online and radio.


To put the scale of this project into context, during the first 12 months of going digital, 4m playlists were generated, which works out as 72,000 playlists per week over 52 weeks. Since September 2012, to date DCM has generated almost 30m playlists (now on average 92,000 per week).


DCM was at the forefront of this revolution, which has resulted in today’s automated process. We’re proud to work closely with exhibitors to streamline and improve processes, while identifying business needs and driving profitability and opportunities that maximise revenues.


Making cinema a “must have”!

Over the past decade, DCM has become the voice of cinema as an advertising medium, driving awareness of the power of the big screen. We’re have repositioned cinema so it plays a vital role on the Audio-Visual (AV) schedule, broadening its alignment away from just outdoor, proving the medium to be impactful and efficient, cutting through the media clutter and helping brands grow in value. DCM has helped drive significant growth for the cinema medium. Since 2009, ad revenues are up approximately 74%, while the past three years experienced unprecedented growth.


More than ever, advertisers believe in cinema and the value it adds to their AV schedules and they see us more  as a “must have” rather than a “nice to have”. Providing our customers with a more streamlined service and ensuring cinema is aligned with other AV media channels ultimately has a positive impact for exhibitors across the board.


Looking for other ways to set the company apart, in 2016 DCM commissioned the CARIA service, the media and creative campaign service for TV, VOD and Online Video, for the cinema industry. Adding 80% of the cinema advertising market to this industry-wide AV system will provide DCM’s partner media agencies with a streamlined campaign management service, ensuring cinema is aligned with other AV media channels. With cinema’s role in the media mix cemented, commissioning CARIA was the next step in DCM’s journey to improve its service and provide dynamic buying, scheduling and reporting offerings to its agencies.


Beyond the big screen

Since its inception in 2008, DCM quickly became about more than simply selling spots on screen. DCM and its talented and passionate team is always looking at new ways to drive the medium forward, be it through alternative content or maximising the development of cinema spaces to include bars and restaurants to transform the experience and grow the medium further.


A landmark achievement for us was in February 2015 when, for the first time in 13 years, cinema’s most prestigious advertising position, the Gold Spot, started to be sold line-by-line, offering advertisers more flexibility. The Gold Spot, the 60-second commercial directly before the main feature, had been a key platform for Orange and EE for more than a decade. It offers unbeatable stand out and creative opportunities that tie in with cinema’s unique experience.


DCM offers a wide range of opportunities for brands looking to maximise the impact of cinema beyond the realms of traditional on-screen advertising. These include new experiential opportunities in foyers, unique sponsorship platforms and new online and mobile channels to help advertisers get closer to their customers.


We’ve been able to expand the experience with new technologies and continue to deliver bespoke technical solutions such as 4DX, 3D advertising, Higher Frame Rates (HFR) and Dolby Atmos to pioneer the best sound and screen technology for brands.


Late last year, we launched DCM Studios, a new creative division which focuses on delivering more opportunities for brands. Our aim is to forge relevant partnerships to transform how brands utilise the power of our medium  and inspire a range of original campaigns that are tailored to the cinema environment, ultimately making the whole experience more entertaining for cinemagoers. This is something we will continue to grow in the coming years.


Always Looking Forward

Just as an audience is emotionally and physically engaged and literally looking forward at the big screen, DCM is always looking forward too. We are passionate about cinema’s ability to deliver results for customers and will continue to champion it and create new opportunities to deliver blockbusting performance for brands.


The cinemagoing experience has also dramatically improved over the past decade, with investment across the multiplexes and independents. Cinemas are entertainment venues in the heart of communities. Over the next 10 years, we can only expect better cinemas in terms of the quality of the customer experience.


Preservation of cinema’s 16-week theatrical window is just one reason why the medium will remain a step ahead when it comes to delivering unique and memorable experiences that stimulate conversations that are current and culturally relevant. We know our slate years ahead of release, so we can help connect brands of today with the content of tomorrow.


Cinema’s core strengths of delivering a dark room, high emotional impact and cut-through and a receptive, engaged audience is only going to get stronger, with our industry in rude health.


Welcome to the world of distraction…

In this world of distraction, cinema offers the only advertising channel in which everyone still puts their phone away and gives their undivided attention for 120 minutes. True impact, making an impression and achieving cut-through is the hard part, and that’s what cinema provides.


As we look to the future, DCM wants to be leading the way in developing bespoke workstreams that will strengthen advertisers’ creative outputs and really maximise the use of the cinema’s unique spaces. “Experiential” will be a big part of the future, with a bigger focus on cinema activations, including the likes of live-stunts, immersive activations, pop-up cinema tours and bar sponsorships, which will all be new revenue generating streams for DCM and its exhibitors!


We’re determined to maintain the momentum we’ve achieved over the past 10 years and drive the industry forward into the future by connecting brands and people in our unique environment.




Paying to pay attention

  • Cinema is a medium in robust health — it delivers receptive audiences, impact and longer-lasting sales effects for brands faced with challenges over attention, safety and viewability. Cinema’s offering is powerful — people actually pay to pay attention. 
  • Advertising needs to stand out: it’s hard to make an emotional connection when attention is divided. In this respect, nothing rivals seeing a new release in a cinema. It engages viewers like nothing else. 
  • We know cinema plays a pivotal role in media and work hard to challenge opinions that it’s only selling point is a big screen. We take our role as market leader seriously and our responsibility to act as our own trade body to champion the medium. Research we create is of the highest standard and provides useful, actionable insight for all of the  media industry. 
  • DCM’s investment in insight enables us to reaffirm to agencies and advertisers the value the pre-show brings. Research has been central to our messaging since our launch. The way we embed rational proof of cinema’s role in the media mix has significantly contributed to the upswing in cinema revenues.