Coupons Reel in Movie Goers

Discount coupons sent via postcards to boost movie ticket sales produced a redemption rate nearly double the goal.

Five postcards were mailed in consecutive weeks, reaching homes Aug. 14-Sept. 11, to consumers in Chicago; Minneapolis; Rancho Cucamonga, CA; La Costa, CA; and Chula Vista, CA. Each market got 5,000 to 6,000 postcards weekly.

The coupon-redemption rate was 3 percent to 4 percent. The best rate, which was maintained for several weeks, was 8 percent in La Costa.

“I would've hoped for 2 percent redemption on the coupons,” said Colin Spooner, director of business development at Modern Postcard, Carlsbad, CA, which conceived, developed and executed the campaign.

He placed the average movie ticket price at $5.80.

Spooner's firm worked with two exhibitor chains: Ultra Star Cinemas, which has about a dozen outlets in Southern California; and Connecticut-based Crown Theatres, with about 25 outlets, including in Chicago and Minneapolis. The three California theaters offered dollar-off coupons while the Chicago and Minneapolis locations featured buy-one-get-one-free coupons.

“This week's showtimes & special savings on backside” or “This week's showtimes & offers on backside” appeared on the front of the cards along with images from films being promoted. These included “My Boss's Daughter,” “Whalerider,” “Open Range” and “Once Upon a Time in Mexico.”

Recipients were asked to opt in for future mailings at Space along the bottom of the card pictured films that are “coming soon” as well as advertisers such as Orville Redenbacher's popcorn, Sun Maid Milk Chocolate Covered Raisins and Screamin' Sour Sqwigglies Gummi Worms.

The back of the cards contained a small map indicating the theater's location; the theater's name, address and telephone number; showtimes for movies during the upcoming week; and a description of the film promoted on the front.

“From the consumers' point of view, they receive the cards from their local theaters, but we wanted the ability to have a single name for branding purposes and a future rollout as well,” Spooner said. “We investigated the industry and found there was an opportunity there. Historically, exhibitors have only had two outlets: Take their listings and put them into newsprint or online.”

The cards' success resulted mainly from the “fridge factor,” he said. People put the colorful postcards on their refrigerator, helping ensure that they would remember to redeem the coupons.

“They are extremely high quality four-color postcards,” he said. “We felt there was synergy between the quality of the card and the entertainment industry.

“We wanted a portable and convenient coupon element because if we could turn this around in 24 to 48 hours and have it in mailboxes two days later, we believed it would work.”

Postcards were scheduled to arrive in mailboxes on Thursdays because “that's when people plan their movie viewing for the weekend.”

Modern Postcard developed proprietary lists for the program based on census and geographic data.

“We started with census data to identify highest-receptivity households, and we cross-matched with geographic data,” Spooner said. “Those who were found to be within three-, five- and seven-minute drive times of the theater were considered to be of the highest priority. The census data we used included movie-going frequency. Household income was also part of the mix along with the presence of kids and education level.”

The final postcard, which included local showtimes for Sept. 12-18, was a foldout featuring a survey with questions such as how often recipients go to the movies and how they typically find information about the movies. Other questions asked for total household income, size of household, number of and ages of children and the respondent's age group.

“That was meant to open a dialogue with consumers and find out what they like in order to improve it for an eventual national rollout in the first half of 2004,” he said. “We hosted a site at to allow users to opt into the program, putting them on the mailing list in their area for when we roll out nationally.”

Cost per piece, not including postage, was about 15 cents for production and printing. Postage was placed around 35 cents per piece. Spooner said the cost was shared by film studios, concession brands, the exhibitors and companies involved in film product placement.

“We could've inundated it with commercial offers, but we focused on the information that they need to make the experience easier for them,” he said. “None of the offers stray from the movie-going experience. There will be no dry-cleaning offer on a card, unless it's somehow part of the film.”

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