Rival cinema ad firms collaborate to make their data streams easier for media agencies to access

As they battle each other for ad dollars and elbow their way to secure a chunk of media planners’ TV budgets, the two principal cinema ad firms are collaborating to get their data streams back in front of those planners, Digiday has learned. 

National CineMedia and Screenvision lost their access into Nielsen’s data feeds shortly after the pandemic started when the ratings firm dropped all out-of-home data input from its principal ratings feed with little notice, according to both ad firms. It was a setback at an already tough time for both, when movie theaters had closed and their businesses were operating on life support.

Now the two have partnered with cloud-based mobile and location tech firm The People Platform to integrate their joint cinema audience data into Nielsen’s Respondent Level Data (RLD) feed for the first time.

“We were both impacted by Nielsen walking away from cinema measurement, so it made sense to come together in partnering with The People Platform,” said Manu Singh, National CineMedia’s svp of insights/analytics and data sales strategy. “Then also making sure that we are able to replicate the data feeds that existed before all of this kerfuffle with Nielsen.”

The aim is clear: get their data in front of media agency buyers and planners in a way to be considered side-by-side with other video options. 

“We want it to be a seamless and streamlined data set for agencies and brands to utilize,” said Jen Friedlander, Screenvision’s svp of insights and measurement. “Agencies and planners started utilizing tools that required a very specific data feed [respondent level data] that was not available for cinema.” Now it is. 

Singh noted the move works to appeal especially to holding company agencies that are forming their own data sets. 

“The holdcos have evolved their role and they’re trying to become the hub of measurement,” said Singh. “Which essentially means that their internal planning tools are taking precedence over any third-party tools out there. Although they may sign up for Nielsen tools, they are building the mechanics and the wherewithal to do that planning analysis internally. We were not part of that” until this deal. 

Although cinema advertising remains a small part of video investments by planners and buyers, both firms have pushed hard to show they’re a valid option, trotting out various tactics from attention measurement to guaranteeing business outcomes. And although not many media agencies talk about cinema ads, one holding company executive welcomed the move.

“Cinema is increasingly important to us as ratings erosion continue to deplete linear television ratings,” said the executive who declined to speak for attribution due to negotiations with video sellers. “It delivers high impact audiences for high profile viewing opportunities. Accurate and accessible measurement are critical to leveraging this channel at scale. Having access to this in our platforms in the same inventory pool as linear data would allow for seamless analysis and activation.”

One challenge both firms still face is the up-and-down nature of movie attendance. Last weekend was the worst Memorial Day weekend box office performance in decades — and the rest of the summer slate of films seems to be underwhelming

Both research execs seem unconcerned with any uncertainty — Singh noted that no buyer is buying cinema in a vacuum and that cinema audiences exceed any linear or ad supported streaming show at any time.  

“Particularly when you’re looking for an under-50 audience,” added Friedlander. “I mean, 80% of prime-time [linear TV] impressions are delivered to audiences over 50 or 55 [years old] — and that includes sports.”


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