During the intermission, Advertising and Service created a Customer

We went to see X-Men III today (decent time-pass, but very ordinary compared to the excellent X-II) at a nearby multiplex cinema. During the intermission, an attendant came up to us in our seats and asked if we would like to order snacks or drinks. We declined as we weren’t feeling hungry. After a couple of minutes, the projector stopped showing commercials and shifted to an advertisement for the snack bar, with lots of mouthwatering photographs and a voice-over exhorting the audience to try each of the snacks. This went on for nearly ten minutes. It must have affected us because we now felt like eating something! So we called the attendant and bought some snacks.


Peter Drucker famously said that “the purpose of a business is to create a customer.” And that’s exactly what the advertising for the snack bar did to us. It turned us from uninterested non-customers who didn’t even feel a “need” for their product into customers who wanted and demanded it by simply stimulating our appetites visually, repeating a call to action verbally and eliminating the need for any effort on our part (other than taking twenty bucks out of my wallet).

This made me think about the frequent questionnaire-based polls that marketeers use to figure out what people need and how many people need it. If the snack bar had polled us before showing that advertisement, we would undoubtedly have said that we were not at all interested in buying their offering. Any decision based on such a poll would have left money on the table. The question to ask is: what would make people buy the offering? Another useful question is: why aren’t people buying it? In the case of the snack bar, the second question might lead to the insight that many people don’t like queuing up in a long line for their popcorn which may have led to the idea of in-seat service. The first question may well have led to the advertisement that turned us into paying customers of that snack bar.


  1. […] Popcorn, X-Men and the problem with surveys  […]

  2. Pug said

    Intermission? It’s been a while since I’ve seen a movie outside of Japan, but since when have the theaters started interupting movies to sell crap? It seems to me that their advertising blitz would piss people off enough to walk out. They certainly wouldn’t make a customer out of me with that tactic.

  3. Reynold said

    🙂 When your average film is a 3 1/2 hour song-and-dance filled tear-jerking melodrama, most people welcome the intermission – the concept has been around ever since I was a kid and first started going to the cinema.


  4. Pug said

    If executed properly, annoying advertisements can cause people to purchase products and services. My cultural background would, however, cause me to react negatively to a movie being cut off in midstream. Advertising obviously needs to be constructed in a way that takes the cultural context into account.

    It’s absolutely true that repetition breeds intent to purchase. It would be nice if every single advertisement could be as impactful as the 1984 Apple commercial, but that’s clearly not possible. We’re, therefore, left with the need to create an association in the audiences mind and ping it at a regular interval.

    Repetition must of course be balanced in such a way that it does not turn the audience off to the product. Too few impressions and the audience will lose sight of the product for something else. Too many impressions and the audience is left with a “been there…got the t-shirt” notion that the product is mundane.

    A movie theater, does however, contain a captive audience with little or no competition, so advertising for products sold by the theater could probably be more aggresive than advertising on your television or out on the street.

    Anyway, good obeservations and thanks for the abbreviated lesson on the film industry. 😉

  5. Reynold said

    I think that’s a fair and comprehensive view. There are indeed times when too much repetition is counter-productive. Could there also be times when people might welcome a little advertising?

    I do realize that an intermission is probably unwelcome in some cultures. I did not consider that when I wrote the article because in our culture it would be quite difficult to sit through a movie without the intermission! I wonder about the concept though – with shorter Hollywood movies, it isn’t necessary, so perhaps people might pay more to see a movie without interruption.

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