In conversation with Cameron Mitchell, Chief Executive Officer at Majid Al Futtaim Cinemas – VOX Cinemas…

Cameron Mitchell, CEO of Majid Al Futtaim Cinemas

How effective is cinema as a medium to reach new audiences? How does it compare to other traditional forms of marketing and advertising?
Some of the world’s leading brands have been using cinema to engage with audiences for decades. A unique platform, cinema offers brands an uncluttered environment where consumers get comfortable and give their undivided attention to the big screen unlike other marketing and advertising environments. Flexible, adaptable and targeted, cinema remains a medium that provides a focused approach for advertisers to speak to captive audiences in an already engaging setting. Adding cinema to the media mix is proving to be an effective tool for advertisers, with scope to boost their campaign’s reach and maximise media plan ROIs.

Can you share any trends and statistics of cinema consumption and advertising in the region?
When you look at this region’s cinema landscape, the number of screens and admissions per head of population across the various markets in the Middle East is still relatively low in comparison to the rest of the world. This means that there is still opportunity for the cinema industry to keep expanding in the region. In line with this trend, cinema ad spend shows no signs of abating in the next few years and will continue to be driven by the increasing number of moviegoers in Middle East markets.

VOX Cinemas has announced its ambitious plans to launch 550 screens in the Middle East by 2020. Do you believe that the regional media industry is set to experience exponential growth in the next four to five years? What are future trends you predict for the cinema segment, as well as the wider media landscape?
Since opening our first cinema in Ajman City Centre back in 1999, VOX Cinemas has grown to be the region’s largest cinema exhibitor, holding the coveted position as the number one highest grossing cinema in each of the markets we operate in. Our successful expansion and the strong growth cinemas are seeing in general across the region are in no small part due to the Middle East consumer’s growing appetite for leisure and entertainment goods and services. We expect to see continued screen growth in the region across all markets and an expansion into North Africa as the next frontier. The cinema segment is already quite developed and we foresee some markets in the region will reach a natural cinema screen saturation level by 2020. A big focus for cinema now is to ensure cinema experiences and offerings keep progressing and improving for customers.

Can cinemas close the gap as TV audiences continue fragmenting?
Cinema houses are making movie going an experience now, it is no longer simply about the movie being screened. From the screen size, sound systems, great F&B offerings and comfortable surroundings, movie going is a unique and captivating experience which will keep people coming back for more. With our constant improvement of the VOX Cinemas concepts and our commitment to creating great moments for everyone, we are confident that we will see people continue to visit our cinemas and enjoy premium experiences they simply can’t get at home.

As media spending continues to shift from print to digital, how do you see it affecting cinema advertising?
Middle East audiences have always responded well to visual storytelling and the ad industry in the region has caught on, making video ads one of the fastest growing sub categories within digital ads. TV, Cinema and digital platforms such as Instagram-ads are becoming the big players while print advertising continues to decline. There has definitely been a shift in media prioritization, ad spend is being led by digital investments now which are resonating and generating far more consumer engagement. The shift from print to digital ad spend reflects the need for brands to find more creative and video-led platforms to reach their audiences and cinema advertising provides exactly this. With premium offerings, advertisers are increasingly turning to leading cinema screens to heavily invest their ad spends in. Cinema advertising also bypasses some of the challenges faced by advertisers in other digital spaces such as ad-blocking and viewability.

Is there a specific country within the Middle East region that has a better uptake – both in terms of number of users and advertising spend? How does UAE compare to other markets in the region?
The UAE and Oman are currently the two markets in the Middle East with the biggest uptake in terms of cinema advertising based on the 2015/2016 IPSOS MEDIACT report. Looking at the numbers the UAE is still in the lead spending more than other GCC markets on cinema advertising in this year’s first six months from January to June 2016, 17 times more than Oman. The UAE continues to be the driver of media innovation in the region.

Rushika Bhatia Editor

Rushika Bhatia is one of the region’s leading commentators on business and current affairs issues. She is the Editor of SME Advisor magazine - the flagship title of CPI Business. She is passionate about infographics – with special emphasis on data, research and statistics. Rushika has a Bachelor’s Degree from Indiana University, USA and is also CIMA qualified.

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