With tourism operators facing another sagging green season, the country’s tourism ministry is turning again to the Atlanta, Georgia, ad firm of 22 Squared.
This time the agency plans to put an ad campaign in 1,345 movie theaters across the U.S. and Canada. This is the same agency that created the talking sloth that was the central figure in the “Gift of Happiness” campaign that consumed a third of the ministry’s annual ad budget by giving 100 couples free trips to Costa Rica.
Although not charting new territory this time, the ad agency has selected a medium that is under attack from Netflix, iTunes, YouTube and a host of other online video purveyors.
In addition, the movie audience is skewed to persons younger or older than those likely to be Costa Rican tourists.
The Nielsen Co., the authority on advertising demographics,said the makeup of the moviegoing audience has remained relatively consistent over the last couple of years, but the proportion of younger moviegoers (12 to 24 years) and oldest moviegoers (65 to 74 years) has grown gradually at the expense of middle-aged moviegoers (25 to 54 years).
The Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. said that those under 24 represent 41 percent of the tickets sold in 2011. Some 35 percent of the tickets went to persons over 40 years, including 13 percent to those 60-plus years.
The same year 11 percent of the tickets sold were to those 11 or under and 24 percent to those under 17, said the association, based on a survey of 4,018 adults done in January 2012 by a professional research firm.
Said Moviephone, which tracks attendance, “The studios are still geared toward making expensive event movies for young men under 25 (and overseas audiences for whom spectacle translates better than well-written dialogue), to the near exclusion of all other fare aimed at different audiences.”
The effectiveness of video advertising in movie houses also is questioned. An academic studyby Jason Dunnett and Janet Hoek, published in 1996, said that ” . . . a reasonable proportion of the audience was not exposed to any advertising, although this is, arguably, also a characteristic of other media. Second, the low levels of unprompted recall, the vagueness with which respondents recalled some advertisements, and the varying proportions of respondents able to recall any details about the advertising content, raises more questions than it addresses about cinema advertising and its effectiveness.
A report in the Small Business Chronicle cites research in the academic marketing journal Marketing Bulletin that says the timing and length of featured advertisements that are shown prior to films is predictable by audiences and easily avoidable. The research indicates a significant number of audience members stay outside the theater for the duration of ads, including those purchasing refreshments or arriving late, it said, adding that this preemptive evasion of advertisements has the potential to lump cinema advertising in with the multitude of ads seen and heard every day by consumers, thereby minimizing its effect.
In a YouTube summary 22 Squared said that there were 372,000 entries in the sloth contest and that Costa Rica received $6 million in media exposure for an investment of $1 million. It cites such events as giving away a free trip to a couple on a show with Anderson Cooper and a gift of a free trip to a weather reporter in a snowy state.
The campaign continued the fiction of Costa Rica as the happiest country in the world. That designation is a misinterpretation of an index produced by the New Economics Foundation in 2009 that put Costa Rica in first place based on life expectancy and environmental footprint.
The report itself seems to contradict the organization’s press release: “The Index doesn’t reveal the ‘happiest’ country in the world. It shows the relative efficiency with which nations convert the planet’s natural resources into long and happy lives for their citizens. The nations that top the Index aren’t the happiest places in the world, but the nations that score well show that achieving, long, happy lives without over-stretching the planet’s resources is possible.”
Nevertheless, Costa Rica continues to base its advertising on the press release and not the real data. Costa Rica continues to lead the Happy Planet Index in the 2012 version, followed closely by Vietnam, Colombia, Belize and El Salvador.
22 Squared is heavily into new media. Another aspect of the new campaign is an iPad application,calls the Enviromixer, that lets users hear the sounds of Costa Rica.
Atlanta ad executive John Stapleton, the creator, received notice in The Wall Street Journal for “enabling users to create their own jungle music, syncing the sounds of howling monkeys, frogs, rain, fish and streams into a rhythmic symphony, free for children and potential adult visitors to download as a window into Costa Rica’s biodiversity.”
Stapleton was quoted as saying he was working on a campaign for three weeks until he finally traveled to Costa Rica that he got the idea of making an ad based on something other than words.