DCM turns 10: Karen Stacey interview

09 Jul 2018  |  Newsline Staff 
DCM turns 10: Karen Stacey interview

Digital Cinema Media celebrates its tenth birthday this week. CEO Karen Stacey shares the advertising highs, the cinematic lows and tells us what new opportunities await brands on the big screen

DCM is a decade old. Congratulations. What have been the crowning achievements?

In 2008 we became known as Digital Cinema Media; however, it was only in 2012 that we converted to a fully digital operation, showing there was some foresight in the name!

For cinema there used to be a very slow and tedious process with lengthy reel assembly and distribution, often delivered by hand and couriers, with a 3-4-week lead time. It goes without saying that one of our biggest achievements is going digital in 2012, starting to offer an accountable and transparent process

Lead times were shortened to under a week, with electronic distribution offering even more flexibility for advertisers, who are now able to target by film, by showing, by cinema and by time across our whole estate.

Over the last few years we’re also proud to have repositioned cinema to play a vital role on the AV schedule, proving the medium to be impactful and efficient, cutting through the media clutter to help brands grow in value. More than ever, advertisers really believe in our medium and the value it adds to advertisers’ AV schedules and see us more a as “must have” as opposed to a “nice to have”!

We also have an impressive portfolio. We represent Odeon, Cineworld and Vue, as well as Picturehouse, Everyman and Curzon and over 160 independents. We’re committed to providing our customers with a more streamlined service and ensuring cinema is aligned with other AV media channels, which ultimately has a positive impact for our exhibitors across the board.

Another landmark achievement 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” commercial directly before the main feature, had been a key platform for Orange and EE for over a decade. It offers unbeatable stand out and creative opportunities to tie in with cinema’s unique viewing experience.

What has changed most about cinema advertising since you became DCM?

In 1996, British media company Carlton Communications purchased Rank Screen Advertising [a British entertainment conglomerate] from The Rank Group and renamed the company as Carlton Screen Advertising.

The new company supplied cinema advertising for Odeon and Cineworld as well as ABC and UCI Cinemas prior to their respective takeovers by Odeon.

In 1999, cinema operator UGC joined the business following its buyout of Virgin Cinemas. However, its UK business was taken over by Cineworld in 2004.

In July 2008, Cineworld and Odeon acquired the company as a 50-50 joint venture and changed its name to Digital Cinema Media (DCM), whose formation really marked a full focus on cinema advertising.

Between 2008 and 2012, there was a transformative journey to going digital, which has offered greater levels of flexibility with a huge investment from the entire cinema industry.

The digital revolution of cinema saw advertising move quickly from film, to hard drive, to USB and ultimately broadband delivery in a very short space of time. DCM was at the forefront of this evolution resulting to today’s fully automated process.

On to the fun stuff: what's your favourite movie from the last ten years?

It has to be Toy Story 3. This third instalment is the trilogy’s most emotional of the toys’ outings and I loved it. It also experienced one of the most successful UK releases of 2010 and won two Oscars for Best Animated Feature and Best Song (“We Belong Together”) that year. And rightly so!

Incredibly it’s been 22 years since the first one came out in the UK and the sheer wonder of the trilogy is impressive. I can’t wait for next year’s instalment in Toy Story 4.

Now, be honest, and give us the worst.

I’d have to say Sex and the City 2. I was a fan of the TV series and enjoyed the first film, but the second wasn’t as sharp and a little disappointing.

What ad has wowed you the most on the big screen?

There are so many but I found the Lloyds Bank Running Dreams ad powerful and inspiring. Their advertising is native to cinema’s environment - their content is cinematic, tells emotional captivating stories and is fresh and exciting. With this campaign, Lloyds especially played to cinema’s strengths using a long-copy creative (90 seconds) made specifically for the big screen.

Everyone wants a bigger slice of the adspend pie - how do you plan on achieving this for cinema?

By taking everyone back to the basics. We want to remind people about the value in basic brand building and how gaining brand love and brand difference is paramount to the health of a brand.

And that’s what cinema does best. Cut-through and impact is in short supply and high demand and cinema is the only place you can get that.

What new opportunities are opening up for brands in cinema?

Late last year we launched DCM Studios, a new creative division which focuses on delivering more opportunities for brands across four key areas: Technology, Film Content, Film Partnerships and Content Production.

We want to work closely with brands to offer combined media and content solutions and DCM Studios will maximise the power and potential of the unique cinema experience creatively to our wide range of partners, agencies and contacts and this is something we will continue to grow in the coming years.

As we look to the future, we want to be leading the way in developing bespoke workstreams that will strength advertisers’ creative outputs and really maximise the use of cinema’s unique space, both on and off the big screen.

In your career you've worked on radio, mags and TV. How does cinema compare?

It is the only medium I’ve worked in where everyone I meet says “I love cinema”. I can’t say that about the other ones.

What can we expect from the next ten years?

You can expect better cinemas in terms of the quality of the customer experience, as well as continued audience growth and unique blockbusters. The big screen is bolstered by unique and compelling film slates and we’re in an enviable position in that we know our film slate far ahead of time, which helps us connect the brands of today with the content of tomorrow. 2018 has already seen an unprecedented run of blockbusters, while 2019 could potentially be one of the biggest ever years for cinema.

Cinema’s core strengths of delivering a dark room, an undistracted audience that is always looking forward and that has actively chosen to pay to pay attention, high emotional impact and cut-through will only continue to get stronger, not weaker.

Experiential will also be a big part of the future. Over the past year, DCM has experienced increasing demand for cinema activations, including the likes of live-stunts, immersive activations, pop-up cinema tours and bar sponsorships.

Agency partners and clients will continue to demand a premium level of service and examples of some of the work we hope to create through DCM Studios includes pushing the pre-show through real-time or live advertising, expanding the experience with projection mapping, AR, VR and MR and continuing the conversation with social listening and geo retargeting.

It remains certain that over the next 10 years, cinema will still be the only place to see the best films for the first 16-weeks of their release and will always be one step ahead when stimulating conversations that are current and culturally relevant.


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14 Feb 2019 

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