Indian Cinemas Need Reward Programs!


First published on PassionforCinema


image Almost every supermarket has reward cards and so do most department stores and clothing chains. Bookstores, airlines etc etc.

The benefits of these programs work both ways. Customers are rewarded for their loyalty to that shop with points, free stuff, advance notice of special or new products. Individual product manufacturers can promote their offerings by sponsoring extra points for that purchase. The shops learn a huge amount about their customers and their preferences, and over time, can segment them and target marketing appropriately. This is also great for consumers as it can reduce the marketing you face for things you don’t want.

This would be awesome for Indian cinema chains. Some of the benefits could be:

  • Get free tickets after a certain number of purchases.
  • Get free/discounted food and drinks after a certain number of purchases.
  • Production companies can give gifts for either seeing the same film a number of times, or seeing multiple films from the same production house. Gifts could be free soundtracks, t shirts, DVD discount coupons, tickets to future previews.
  • Production companies can offer bonus points for seeing the film on the opening weekend, or, in the case of weaker films, just for seeing the film at all.
  • A production company looking to extend the run of a film could directly market to people who have already seen it, offering special bonuses for seeing the film a second time.
  • The cinema chain can keep you up to date on the schedules for the types of films that you would usually watch.
  • The cinema can encourage you to give feedback (that you normally wouldn’t bother giving) in exchange for extra points.
  • Remembering your favorite seating areas within the cinema and tries to automatically allocate seats there.

What else?

These programs already exist in a more limited form overseas and some chains are experimenting with expanding the benefits.

As one of the most advanced examples, in Canada, ScotiaBank has tied up with a number of multiplex chains to offer the ‘Scene” reward program. As a member you get points every time you buy tickets for yourself or your family. You get discounts on food and drinks, and you get bonus points for buying your tickets online. Going further, the bank has also created a debit and credit card that are aimed at movie lovers. Just for opening one of these accounts you get enough points for 2 movie tickets. You also earn points by using these cards to buy anything, anywhere, with 5X bonus points for money spend at the cinema on tickets, food, or in their shops.

Lots of other multiplex chains (including some in India) have much simpler offerings – get tenth ticket free, get free popcorn after 5 films etc etc.

There are 2 main differences between these simple programs and what I am envisioning. Currently, the relationship is only between the cinema and the customer, there is no involvement from the production companies and distributors. Secondly, there is no sophistication in how the data is used in terms of understanding how one customer’s usage differs from another’s, and then being able to communicate with that customer on a personal level.

Until now, I have been discussing programs provided by the cinema itself, however there is another option, which is also gaining popularity – social networking applications.

Location-based social networking applications on phones, such as Facebook places, FourSquare etc, record when you are physically in a particular location. In India this is mostly being used for fun (if you visit a certain place often enough you can get the title of Mayor of that location) however overseas many businesses are using these for marketing programs, by rewarding more frequent visits. For instance, this can be used to record when you are inside a multiplex.

On the other hand, content-based social networking applications are used to track the content you are consume. Apps such as Getglue, Miso and Philo, let you ‘check in’ to different films, TV, books etc according to what you are watching/reading. By following other people with similar tastes to yourself, you get lots of suggestions about new content that you might like. Users get rewarded with stickers and badges to show the things that they are a fan of.

If location-based and entertainment-based social networking could be combined so that you can register what you are seeing, and where in a simple, shareable manner, then this could also be an awesome base for a cinema rewards system. At the rate of mobile phone connections in India, and the fact that smart phones are becoming much cheaper, this might well be the way to go!

Cinema + Web Advertising?

National Cine Media is one of the biggest cinema advertising companies in the US, with about 16,000 screens under their management. As part of an interesting media sales strategy, they have partnered with two popular websites – Rotten Tomatoes, and Flickster, to also sell ad space on the sites.

The logic is this – many film viewers visit Rotten Tomatoes (which links to reviews from professional critics) before their see a film, and then visit the site Flixster to post their own reviews after they have seen the film.

By giving advertisers a package that stretches the in-cinema advertising to include ‘before’ and ‘after’ they can increase the frequency of ad exposure without necessarily having to repeat the ad so often within the cinema itself.

It will be interesting to see how this pans out. These sort of packages can be tricky to sell, as many big advertisers break up their marketing budgets and a different person may be responsible for digital than for cinema. This presents a new challenge to NCM’s sales team in terms of reaching out to new departments within their customers.

If advertisers do go for this, it could inspire other media owners/managers to look for synergies between their properties, rather than waiting for media planners to come up with the ideas.

Creative Industries and the Online Fan- How to Balance Your Time?

Three great posts here from Merlin Mann (best known for his ‘Inbox Zero’ methodologies).

Creative workers, whether writers, artists, musicians etc, are increasingly working online, or at least on their computers, and within easy reach of email, skype, web forums, social networks. At the same time, they are being encouraged to engage with new media as a way to ‘get personal’ with their audience (readers, listeners, viewers). At what stage can this start interfering with your actual work? Merlin’s posts discus where to draw the line.

Many large advertising agencies or other companies where creative thought is encouraged, will provide ‘thinking spaces’ – rooms where people can think and work uninterrupted by the normal office clamor. How can a self employed artist translate this into their own work? How do you productively divide your time between generating new work and developing relationships with fans of your current work or other practitioners in your field?


Part 1: Making Time to Make: Bad Correspondence

Part 2: Making Time to Make: The Job You Think You Have

Part 3: Making Time to Make: One Clear Line

Exciting Careers – Interactive Producer

Guinevere Orvis at Aboutnewmedia has a great post answering a question that she is often asked: “What is an Interactive Producer?

Previously, when you wanted a website, you hired a website designer. Then, when you wanted more traffic, you hired an SEO expert. Then, to make it more customer friendly, you hired a usability expert. Now, you want to add a facebook app, twitter feed, a podcast, management blog and you are considering a mobile phone app. Who do you turn to?

An Interactive Producer!

The range of responsibility is pretty much comparable to a film or television producer, in that an interactive producer doesn’t need to have detailed technical knowledge regarding each aspect of their job. Instead, they need a broad overview of each technical area and the project management skills to pull together the work of disparate and possibly unconnected team members, on time and on budget. Often these are client-facing positions so people skills and good presentation are essential. If that isn’t enough responsibility, senior interactive producers are often called on to provide strategic advice on marketing and interactive technology, as agencies look for new angles to keep their clients ahead of the pack.

How do I become an Interactive Producer?

While the job title was first used 6-8 years ago, for most companies this is still a fairly new job description. As such, specifically tailored courses are still uncommon, but are evolving out of multimedia and web design programs at a range of schools. Technically, skills in MS Office, MS Project, MS Visio, Photoshop, After Effects, HTML, Flash, XML, SHTML, JavaScript and CSS may be required. Professionally, most companies will look for at least 3-5 years in webdesign/multimedia/online journalism, preferably in project management roles

In developing countries, such as India, both the number of people with internet access and the available connection speeds are booming. Greater online audiences draw companies to establish a greater online presence, creating demand for professionals who can guide corporate managers through the web 2.0 minefield. A specific challenge in a society as multicultural as India’s is ensuring usability and appropriate content across multiple cultural and language groups.

What are your experiences? Are you an Interactive Producer, or looking to get into this field? How does this role change between developed and developing countries?