Connecting marketing with the cinema ticketing process

Innovation awards finalist: Usheru creates film specific websites which are connected into cinemas

Catherine Downes, co-founder of Usheru. Photograph:  Conor McCabe

Catherine Downes, co-founder of Usheru. Photograph: Conor McCabe

 

The core problem in the film industry, according to Usheru co-founder Ollie Fegan, is that production studios are paying twice as much on marketing as they do on making films.

“There’s an information black hole,” he says. “With the mass marketing approach, they don’t know who you are or what film you go to see.”

Solving that very issue was at the centre of Usheru, a company that seeks to connect marketing with the cinema ticketing process.

“The way it always works in cinema is that marketing happens with the studios or the distributors, and you’re supposed to go to a cinema website to buy the ticket,” he says. “Because they don’t manage the ticketing themselves, there’s no way for them to see what marketing is leading to ticket sales.”

In essence, Usheru creates film specific websites which are connected into cinemas. These websites allow consumers to purchase cinema tickets in just three clicks.

The product also provides the ability to track from advertising campaigns with a “book now” button, so studios can see which campaigns lead to the most interest. Furthermore, the studio can track ticket sales.

“What we do is connect to the box offices of all cinemas,” says Fegan. “If you see a post on Facebook or the Universal page or a sponsored page, you click ‘book now’, and you come to a site we manage on behalf of the studio like despicableme.ie or fiftyshades.ie.

“There, you find all the cinemas where it’s on. You select where you want to go and see the film and then you buy all the tickets. Our main customers are big studios like Universal and the British Film Institute.

“The biggest innovation we’re doing with the studios is to look at this as a life cycle. The one thing they have been kind of doing to date is looking at the ticketing process as a four week window. We’re starting to push them to work with us from the second the film is out.

“People can register their interest, and then we can show film-makers where their audience is based. It’s particularly beneficial for smaller operators who can’t spend big money on mass marketing campaigns.”

Fegan says the idea was connected to his brother’s work as a film maker.

“We kind of had an insight into the industry,” he says. “He travelled around America promoting his films. We saw the opportunity to bring a bit of intelligence into the film promotional cycle.

Expensive industry

“We wanted to bring data into the cinema industry. From day one, what we’re trying to do is allow studios to learn more about their customers: what they’re doing; how they’re behaving; what traders they’re watching; how they engage with the film.

“We saw there was a problem, and there were some great distributors like Universal that approached us and said they wanted to be more involved in the ticketing process.

“We recognise that it’s an expensive industry, so we’re bringing a technology solution to a very old industry. What everyone wants most is to get more bums on seats.”

In terms of the success of the product, Fegan says “some of it was luck”.

“We were already developing stuff in this space, and once you start on a road, you see much clearer solutions,” he says. “We think we have improved the market through data and cinema connectivity.”

The company is currently operating in Ireland and Northern Ireland, but there are plans to expand into the United States in 2019.

“We have just signed our first solo UK project,” says Fegan. “We’re doing the British Film Institute thriller season across the UK. We’ve got a couple of huge campaigns coming here with some of the major studios.”

Fegan has two co-founders working with him on the project. Catherine Downes, who has a background in Google and working with publishers, is described as “something of a vanguard” when it comes to data in marketing. “She’s very much been leading this programme,” he said.

Andres Macias is described as the firm’s “technology lead”. His big focus, according to Fegan, was to cut the number of steps needed to buy a cinema ticket from about 20 clicks to three clicks.

“Everything is a streamline of the whole process,” he said.

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