Cinema demonstrates the value of a receptive audience

by Nigel Hollis | December 09, 2015

The furor about ad blocking continues, with publishers in the countries most affected struggling to find a solution.  Advertisers know that ad blocking is bad, there’s no chance that your ad will work if it is not seen, but do they recognize the full downside of digital clutter? A new study demonstrates the power of cinema’s uncluttered media environment and indicates on what advertisers are missing out on.

The rise of ad blocking has proven what many people have long known; too much clutter reduces ad effectiveness by making people less receptive to advertising in general. We have seen it with TV, the more clutter there is in a country, the less bang you get for your TV buck. Now we are seeing it with digital channels too. However, instead of buying a DVR and actively skipping through ads, people can simply install an adblocker and, hey presto, all that clutter is just gone. Millions of people around the world now surf ad-free.

However ad blocking is just the tip of the iceberg. As the visible proportion of people’s growing disaffection with advertising, it is probably dwarfed by their instinctive ad avoidance, ’Don’t look at that video on the right... where is the X for that pop-up?... eyes on the text, don’t look away.’ Unfortunately, attempts to ensure ads are seen by making them more intrusive simply pushes more people to fight technology with technology. Rather than continuing down this slippery slope, advertisers ought to be asking themselves what the world would be like with less clutter. The answer is one where advertising is a lot more effective.


Just take a look at the effectiveness of cinema or movie theater advertising. There you have a receptive audience (they paid to watch the movie for a start) and there is little to distract people from what is being shown on the screen. The results speak for themselves, in a recent study of our CrossMedia database conducted for Digital Cinema Media, we found that cinema was one of the hardest hitting channels, vying with magazines for the biggest return on investment. Cinema advertising may not reach a huge audience by the standards of TV, but it offers a quality of exposure that is hard to find elsewhere. That quality is demonstrated by the fact that cinema delivers over four times the contribution to salience that TV does, and 20 times the impact on purchase intent.

Is the difference all the result of audience receptivity? No. For instance, spend on TV is often found to be far in excess of the optimal, reducing its overall efficiency, but audience receptivity has to be a major factor. As the Building Box Office Brands study notes,

“Cinemagoers are relaxed and receptive, therefore more likely to recall both the advertising itself and the brand which it's for.”

Now what’s not to like about that? Rather than demand more intrusive ad formats maybe advertisers should be seeking less cluttered environments, ones where their advertising will work more effectively. So what do you think? Please share your thoughts. 


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  1. MK, March 02, 2016
    interesting read indeed. when talking about ads at the cinema are we referring to ads during the movie or during trailers? I am not sure of how audiences would react if an ad is posted during a movie. this might piss them off, or to our surprise, it may well present them with a good recall because they will remember the ad that 'interrupted' their movie. I think its a gamble marketers should explore.
  2. Dhir, December 11, 2015


    Thanks for sharing such useful post. Could you please give us more details on this.

    We would like to explore this further!



  3. Anita , December 10, 2015

    Hi Nigel,

    interesting perspective of getting ads out there to be consumed when Consumers are most receptive. The challenge would be to have the buy-in of the Cinema management. They might not be open to having ad placed during a movie. 

    What are your thoughts on this?

  4. Bhajan kuttappa, December 10, 2015
    Cinema is the ultimate picturisation of the real life stories
  5. Nandini Menon, December 10, 2015

    Very useful. Could pls share the report with us or give us more details about the report?

  6. Guy Powell, December 09, 2015


    I agree about the effectiveness of cinema for all the reasons stated.  Also, if the ad is entertaining it can definitely stand out.  I also agree that I have trained my eyes and mind to ignore as many digital ads as possible.  I have an ad blocker, but only use it on one browser.  As an advertising effectiveness consultant, I enjoy (sometimes) looking at the ads to learn what they're doing right and wrong.

    I also think that live game sports/events advertising will be strong because they too can't be easily blocked, both online and off.  I have a new white paper on this topic at

    Thanks for the great post


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