Ad Network Taps A Last Refuge: Movie Theater Rest Rooms

Zoom Media expanded its offerings today by inking an agreement to sell ads in the restrooms of more than 100 Loews movie theaters. Added to a social network of 2,000 bars and restaurants as well as a fitness network of 300 health clubs, the in-theater ad space gives Zoom an out-of-home assortment that few of its competitors can match.

According to Zoom President Dennis Roche, that range of offerings may have been what clinched the deal. "[Loews] was looking for a partner that was committed to the space and had deep pockets," he said. "They wanted a partner that would have a variety of reasons to talk to their clients."

The Zoom/Loews program will rev up just in time for this summer's movie season. Although the 100-theater figure doesn't sound like much, the movie chain averages multiple screens and six restrooms per location. With a minimum of three ad boards per restroom, the numbers start to add up.

And given that around 90 percent of Loews theaters are located in highly desirable DMAs, the ads should be seen by the type of entertainment-happy consumers that multiplexes tend to attract.



For his part, Loews Senior Vice President of Marketing John McCauley described the cinema-going audience as "hard to reach," and praised the flexibility of in-theater offerings. "We have added a media asset that will continue to offer top brand advertisers who understand the value and strength of cinema advertising another option," he said in a statement.

It's clear that more than a few marketers are seeing the value and strength to which McCauley alludes. According to Initiative Future Worldwide's "Spheres of Influence 2004: Global Advertising Expenditure Trends Report," cinema advertising in the United States jumped 20 percent last year, with an additional 30 percent gain predicted for 2004.

While multiplexes are far from ad-saturated, continued ad growth at even a fraction of this pace would change that in a hurry. Asked if consumers could eventually come to resent the glut of advertising--a few spots before the previews, signage in the lobby area, etc.--Roche said only that "every chain is different in the way they're handling things. Besides, I have four young kids, so I'm probably not the person you want to ask."

Not surprisingly, he was more eager to proselytize about the "targeted lifestyle opportunities" that his company attempts to offer. One might say an awful lot of things about restaurant and movie theater bathrooms, but it's hard to argue that they're saturated with ads. "It's a clean environment in terms of clutter," he noted. Perhaps the best argument for the Zoom restroom ads is that their particular positioning makes them hard to avoid. As a result, both unaided and aided recall tends to be higher than the norm: Zoom studies peg the former at around 20 percent and the latter at just under 40 percent.

Roche identified two categories as ideal for movie theater restrooms: cable TV shows and personal-care products. While both apparently have dollars earmarked for cinema programs, some concern still lingers about the propriety of hawking the latter before the lights dim. "They have flexible budgets and needs, which makes something like this perfect for them. They're interested in that audience that likes entertainment," he explained.

In the end, this audience should prove Zoom's best selling point. With around 40 percent of the 12-and-over population and an incredible 70 percent of teens regularly attending movies--not to mention the millions of 18- to-24-year-olds who habitually visit watering holes and health clubs--the company is uniquely positioned to capture this audience across a range of venues.

"We put media where people go out and have fun," Roche said. "They choose to be there. If you're an advertiser, that has to be one of the primary things you're looking for."

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