Sonder | How to pull off a media heist
Village Entertainment are pulling off a media heist, whilst blurring the lines between retail and media.
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How to pull off a media heist

How to pull off a media heist

In the 2013 movie Ocean’s Eleven, Danny and Rusty assemble a team of specialists to achieve an audacious heist. This is a good analogy for the way Village Entertainment is transforming their business model, by assembling unique and imaginative entertainment solutions for people within their owned ecosystem.

I recently sat down with Mohit Bhargava, General Manager Marketing & Sales, at Village Entertainment to discuss the way they have leveraged their owned media assets to enable this transformation. What caught my attention was how effectively Mohit and his team are deploying communications through their owned assets. This sophistication is highlighted by their reduced reliance on paid media – a true inside-out approach to business growth.

Here’s some of the key points from our conversation…

Can you tell us about the owned media assets you’ve created at Village?
We introduced digital signage and large format media across our network. We’ve created one of the largest loyalty programs in the entertainment business. We have massive online and social audiences, and of course, access to our big screens in cinemas.

You stopped spending on Television 5 years ago, what prompted the change?
The change was prompted by the growing influence of our owned assets. TV was traditionally being used in our business to drive awareness and consideration. Following a detailed review of our brand awareness and performance across all stages of the purchase funnel, we saw an opportunity to elevate our branding & general awareness efforts via owned assets and focus heavily on the performance and conversion side via paid channels. We still use TV where appropriate as a channel, it’s just not a default in every media plan like it once was.

“In effect, we are a retailer that is also a media business offering up engaging content with significant reach.”


Was it a reduction in overall paid media spend, or just a reallocation?

It was not about reducing media spend, it was about better ROI. We spend the same amount in media, just far more efficiently.

What were your concerns when you made the shift and how did they play out?
Changing anything that has been a legacy is always risky, thankfully we had strong support from the senior executive team to run a trial. Throughout the trial, we saw no meaningful impact on our business awareness scores and were able to elevate our performance on the pointy end of the purchase funnel. This gave us the confidence to operationalise our owned first approach.

How did you prepare the business for the change?
It was a journey, and absolutely entailed building the right tool kit and data stack prior to any radical changes being implemented.

You have joint responsibility for sales and marketing, do you think that a combined sales and marketing role make sense in today’s sharp commercial reality?
It can vary in each business but, in our business, this has definitely worked.

What evidence do you have that owned media channels can drive awareness and recruitment?
Cinema as a medium has proven effective at generating awareness and engagement for decades. The fact that this industry has grown over the years and today is widely recognized as one of the best environments to truly engage with audiences at scale, that is evidence enough. Without getting into the specifics of more granular metrics, we see this as evidence enough. The big difference now is we’re using our own media channels more effectively than we did before.

Looking ahead, where do you see your focus in growing the business?
We are diversifying our business from a pure cinema model to an entertainment model. By leveraging the data in our loyalty program with a broader entertainment offering, we can be more prescient to customer needs and desires. Over the last 24 months, Village has introduced a standalone cocktail bar & dining room, kids play areas, and even a dedicated Virtual Reality Zone. Business transformation is a key focus.