The fourth quarter starts a spending frenzy as agencies attempt to utilize every dollar they’re allocated to preserve next year’s budget. While some estimates indicate that improved planning throughout the year would yield 5 to 10 percent greater returns, value can still be found from October through December where impressions increase by 50 percent while average order costs rise only 30 percent. TV is the typical benefactor of advertisers targeting men day and night in October across postseason baseball, Saturday college football, and NFL Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays—despite declining ratings. And November ushers in a slew of heart-warming holiday programming that advertisers hope will reach a female audience. But this fourth quarter offers another attractive option find value: a strong box office. Here are three things to consider when deploying your end-of-year dollars.
Movies Can Reach a Broader and More Diverse Audience Than Sports/Broadcast Alone
In the last five years, ratings across adults 25-54 have dipped 33 percent in primetime while rising 29 percent across cinemas. Overall, theater network buys offer comparable ratings to top fourth quarter content at substantially lower CPMs. In recent years, the World Series has pulled a 7.7 Nielsen rating while the box office draws 6.7 across PG13 and R content in October, meanwhile the average NFL regular season game will only draw 4.2 from September through December whereas PG13 and R film produces a 6.1 during that time span.
Beyond going toe-to-toe ratings-wise with live sports, data also suggests that a large sports audience might be more limited than you think. A survey by research firm GfK MRI found that 63 percent of ‘moviegoers’ (classified as people who saw 1 movie per month) age 25-54 reported that they have not watched a single NFL regular season or playoff game within the last 12 months. That result increased to 77 percent for the NBA and MLB regular and postseasons.
Sports also critically miss the younger side (A-21-34) of the A21-49 demo with that group having a 16.6 percent audience composition versus 45.6 percent for the motion picture industry. Television also heavily under-indexes for women age 21-49, yielding audience comps of 9 percent for the World Series and 13 percent for the NFL Regular Season whereas Hollywood delivers 36 percent within that group.
A Historic Number of PG & PG-13 Films Offer Opportunities to Appeal to a Family Audience
This quarter the distribution pipeline for R-rated films is the lowest it has been in years and an array of popular PG and PG-13 titles, positioned toward a total family audience, are filling that void. October and November will feature the “Goosebumps” re-boot and “Mowgli,” a sequel of sorts to “The Jungle Book” along with established family franchises like “Wreck It Ralph,” “Fantastic Beasts,” and “Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch.” Meanwhile, the highly-anticipated “The Return of Mary Poppins,” saw its release date moved up a week to keep pace with demand. This is critical because the toy category carries a higher brand and message recall across movies than television, according to Nielsen Brand Effect. And of the $19.68 billion spend on toys in the U.S. last year, moviegoers accounted for $10.14 billion. The demand is there; and the viewing medium puts customers in market: Nielsen Cinema Data shows that 61 percent of moviegoers frequently shop after the movies and PG films have a higher percentage of parent/children co-viewing experiences than networks like Nickelodeon, Nick JR, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, and The Cartoon Network.
No Longer “Summer Blockbusters or Bust”
Much like how Black Friday drove profitability for retail stores, the summer blockbuster season has traditionally driven the lion’s share of a studio’s take—but that’s swiftly changing. According to Box Office Mojo, 2017 saw one of most evenly distributed box office quarterly performances, with Q1 and Q4 delivering 26 percent each while Q2 saw 24 percent and Q3 23 percent.
Top performers like “Black Panther” in February, “Avengers: Infinity War” in April, “Incredibles 2” in June and “Crazy Rich Asians” in August look to provide another healthy distribution. And this month’s titles like “Venom” and “A Star is Born,” are already setting records for films debuting this time of year.
November brings “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a film drawing buzz as the ‘sleeper of the year,’ which chronicles the rise of the rock group Queen and the subsequent demons that haunted their British lead singer, Freddie Mercury. The lineup is rounded out by adult dramas such as “Creed II,” “Mary Queen of Scots,” and “First Man” where Ryan Gosling stars as Neil Armstrong in the story of America’s race to the moon. With the box office closing out a record year with a fourth quarter of promising programming, media buyers will have a unique opportunity to efficiently reach coveted consumer groups by year end.
Doug Pulick is the Senior Vice President, Strategic Insight and Analytics, for National CineMedia (NCM). Prior to NCM, Doug served as the Vice President of Research with Discovery Communications, Inc. and the Director of Research at The Weather Channel, Inc.