Why these are the best cinema ads of 2023

We reveal the strategies of winning ads in the seventh Digital Cinema Awards, run in partnership with Campaign

  • DCM Awards 2023: Photos of the night

    DCM Awards 2023: Photos of the night

  • DCM Awards 2023: Photos of the night

    DCM Awards 2023: Photos of the night

  • DCM Awards 2023: Photos of the night

    DCM Awards 2023: Photos of the night

  • DCM Awards 2023: Photos of the night

    DCM Awards 2023: Photos of the night

  • DCM Awards 2023: Photos of the night

    DCM Awards 2023: Photos of the night

  • DCM Awards 2023: Photos of the night

    DCM Awards 2023: Photos of the night

  • DCM Awards 2023: Photos of the night

    DCM Awards 2023: Photos of the night

  • DCM Awards 2023: Photos of the night

    DCM Awards 2023: Photos of the night

  • DCM Awards 2023: Photos of the night

    DCM Awards 2023: Photos of the night

  • DCM Awards 2023: Photos of the night

    DCM Awards 2023: Photos of the night

  • DCM Awards 2023: Photos of the night

    DCM Awards 2023: Photos of the night

  • DCM Awards 2023: Photos of the night

    DCM Awards 2023: Photos of the night

  • DCM Awards 2023: Photos of the night

    DCM Awards 2023: Photos of the night

  • DCM Awards 2023: Photos of the night

    DCM Awards 2023: Photos of the night

  • DCM Awards 2023: Photos of the night

    DCM Awards 2023: Photos of the night

  • DCM Awards 2023: Photos of the night

    DCM Awards 2023: Photos of the night


The gongs have been given out and the red carpet rolled up but the celebration of 2023's top cinema ads continues...

We go behind the screen and find out what made the winners of the Digital Cinema Media Awards stand out from the rest.

The contest showcases the best strategic use of cinema and work created by the media industry over the previous 12 months. Competition was particularly tough this year, producing "honest, outspoken and lively" discussion among the 13-strong judging panel, said DCM chief executive Karen Stacey. And, noted Campaign UK editor and awards chair Maisie McCabe, the standard was especially high.

If you missed the awards ceremony at London's BAFTA, you can get a taste of it here in the photo gallery above and film below. If you were lucky enough to be there, we hope you enjoy reliving the cinema experience...

Congratulations to all the winners and finalists!


Grand Prix

+ Winner of Best Use of Cinema (Large)

KIA/Havas Media Network/Havas Play, "KIA driving to the electric future with independent cinema" 

The judges said: “A stand-out favourite, this campaign is carefully thought out and was a top contender among multiple categories. Kia has shown a true understanding of the entire cinema environment, with a long-term commitment to fully integrate across the whole consumer journey. From being on screen to being in the foyer, membership and all the way to the dealership. Kia delivers across key KPIs.”

Kia had grown volume share over time in the UK, but upcoming legislation changes and a rebrand meant Kia needed to reposition as a leader in electrification to a new target audience who currently had little connection to the brand. This audience needed to feel inspired by Kia and believe in their technology.

Cinema, with its unparalleled attention (as proven by Lumen) would be a great environment for Kia to land messaging and an emotional connection. Independent cinemas presented a premium platform that connects deeply with its audience of film lovers – they’re more likely to be members of a cinema and also happy to pay for premium experiences.

More than a standalone campaign was needed though, so ‘Kia: Taking You On Inspiring Journeys’ was born. Kia wanted to go beyond on-screen and collaborated with DCM to become the official long-term partner of Independent Cinema, integrating in a way that hadn’t been done before.

Across the year Kia collaborated on an activity plan centred around multiple touchpoints including owning the Gold Spot, extending beyond the screen to fully integrate into the Picturehouse estate and taking the partnership to local dealerships with a nationwide ticketing programme.

This partnership exceeded all of Kia’s expectations. The client celebrated this approach, commenting: “This was an excellent opportunity to put the new Kia brand centre stage and on the big screen. The efforts from the team at all sides has led to fantastic results in both brand uplift and inspiring dealer engagement.”

Best Use of Cinema (Small)

Greggs/Carat UK, “Proving both the long & short of it” 

The judges said: “This campaign had a clear vision and strategy, with robust measurements that isolated the impact of the cinema medium’s performance. It was a fun creative that had simple insight and smart execution, targeting people in groups going to the cinema at night. This was a stand-out winner.”

In the highly competitive Food on the Go (FOTG) market, Greggs faced industry giants as its opponents. To stand out and attract the 16-34 age group, the most frequent FOTG consumers, Greggs focused on creating meaningful connections and delivering communications during moments of joy. Recognising cinema’s ability to evoke happiness in audiences, Greggs collaborated with DCM to leverage cinema advertising as the ideal medium for reaching the sought after demographic.

The ‘Bag some Joy’ campaign, executed with captivating cinema-friendly creative, showcased Greggs’ extended store hours and encouraged the audience to indulge in their treats after enjoying a great movie. The campaign targeted the end of January blues and the February half-term period, aligning perfectly with cinema admissions and Greggs’ evening trading period.

The campaign achieved a remarkable reach through DCM and Pearl & Dean’s estates. An incrementality test conducted by D2D confirmed cinema’s positive impact on immediate sales, generating a phenomenal ROI. The ‘Bag some Joy’ campaign also witnessed significant brand metric improvements, solidifying Greggs’ position as a formidable competitor in the market.

By adopting innovative strategies and understanding their audience’s desires, Greggs successfully competed with industry Goliaths, demonstrating the potency of cinema advertising in driving brand metrics and short-term sales growth. The campaign positioned Greggs as the spirited David with a powerful slingshot, aiming to spread joy and win the hearts, minds and stomachs of Gen Z, one delectable treat at a time.

Best Use of Creativity in Cinema

JD Sports/Smart Media, "JD - King of the game" 

The judges said: “JD Sports jumped whole-heartedly into cinema as a new spender in the category and truly made it count. Using great insights and planning, they created something bespoke for the medium that was both contextually relevant and imbued with creative merit. It’s a powerful and bold campaign that delivered excellent results.”

When sports-fashion retailer JD Sports sought to reach 16-24-year-olds during holiday season, competition was at an all-time high due to the Q4 World Cup, which diverted eyeballs and raised linear TV costs.

JD had never invested in cinema, despite 16-34-year-olds accounting for almost 60% of a movie’s opening weekend.

A collaborative partnership was created between Smart Media & DCM from ideation to execution of a bespoke proposal. JD was convinced to make cinema their lead channel: cinema offers a premium canvas for high-impact creative to captive audiences void of distractions, while many JD megastores are in malls alongside cinemas.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was the culturally relevant film to get audiences buzzing with a release date perfectly aligned with the lead up to Christmas.

Smart Media & DCM worked together with JD Sports to create ‘King of the Game’, spearheaded by co-branded JD & DCM opening and closing idents, and 120” and 30” JD ads featuring an ordinary mall that transforms into an arcade world. The arcade world was recreated in cinema foyers on opening weekend for an experiential tie-in unlike any other.

The results far exceeded typical benchmarks, proving cinema to be the ideal launch medium for JD Sports to reach young audiences at the busiest time of year.

Best ‘Marketing For Good’ Campaign

The Prince’s Trust/mSIX&Partners, “Empowering Hope: The Class of Covid Campaign” 

The judges said: “This is a powerful case study that utilises the emotional and communal impact of the big screen, using the medium as a conversation starter for audiences. It is personal and reflective, with the creative of someone standing at a lectern addressing the audience fitting very well with cinema.”

Youth charity, The Prince’s Trust, embarked on a powerful campaign to raise awareness of the profound impact the pandemic has had on young individuals, a period that devastated their self-confidence and stole their futures, disrupting their education, social lives and employment prospects.

New research found that 2.8m young people in the UK don’t think their job prospects will ever recover from the pandemic, a situation that is only set to worsen by the cost-of-living crisis. Disadvantaged youths have been particularly affected, exacerbating existing inequalities.

The strategy aimed to connect the general public with The Prince’s Trust, using a captivating 30-second creative to foster understanding of their mission and create a personal attachment to the issue.

Through meticulous audience analysis, mSix&Partners and DCM identified the highest-indexing movies that would resonate with The Prince’s Trust’s discerning upmarket audience. Films such as Don’t Worry Darling, The Woman King, Amsterdam, Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, and Moonage Daydream were carefully selected to ensure maximum impact. DCM offered additional complimentary value of 100% to boost campaign coverage and contribute to its resounding success.

To ascertain the most effective flighting strategy for cinema, alongside BVOD and Addressable TV, a thorough Reach & Frequency scenario analysis was conducted. The results were compelling, demonstrating that adding cinema to the mix would deliver an incremental reach of 4%, a vital addition to ensure the campaign was seen as far and wide as possible.

Best Long-Term Use of Cinema

IKEA/iProspect, "IKEA use end frames across cinema to drive football delivering great results" 

The judges said: “IKEA is truly a long-term supporter of cinema, consistently investing in the medium for almost a decade. They have creatively switched up their campaigns and messaging, clearly executing their strategy with a huge amount of attention and insight to maximise everything cinema has to offer.”

IKEA, iProspect and Mother’s 12-year relationship has seen consistent use of the cinema medium to support an AV strategy that has delivered YOY growth targets and cemented IKEA’s place as the market-leading home retailer.

While market share peaked in 2019, Covid-19 put IKEA under threat and played a significant role in a loss of market share. Lockdowns, store closures and supply chain issues caused havoc. The category was booming thanks to the unavoidable increased consideration with consumers stuck at home, but competitors were closing in.

IKEA needed to inject a huge dose of energy into their communications to get people back in when stores reopened. The problem was the shift towards shopping locally, jeopardising chances of recovery.

To increase footfall, IKEA needed to feel like a part of the community. A new media strategy dubbed “the doughnut” was born, to bring IKEA ‘Closer to Home’.

A circle was mapped around each store’s acceptable drive-time and prioritised ad spend into this region to ensure they were only speaking to those who were most relevant to the brand. To hit the object of increased footfall, IKEA introduced regional end frames for the first time, using cinema’s unique connection to its location to push people to store. Each end frame was adapted to cinemas nearest IKEA stores – totalling 20 different executions nationwide.

A 60” creative ran in both AGP and Kids AGP packages to ensure mass emotional connection, with the campaign driving increased ROI and uplifts across key brand metrics.

Cinema Champion of the Year

Individual winner: Sophie Martin, Associate Director, Partnerships, Initiative

The judges said: “This entry truly stood out. Sophie’s solid understanding of the medium sees her creatively shine while delivering significant commercial impact for brands, and also bringing new clients to cinema.”

Sophie works hard to demonstrate smart media planning across a range of clients to utilise the growing opportunities that cinema offers. She is always the one to present ideas to clients as a trusted source of knowledge to upscale awareness of the medium. There is strong evidence of Sophie producing creative solutions for advertisers and evidence this has driven business results for clients. Most recently she worked with DCM Studios to come up with a reel takeover idea to build suspense for a psychological thriller series during a busy time of year, with standout results that have encouraged the client to look into ways they can further implement creative strategy for future campaigns.

Team winner: Samsung AV Team, Starcom, 

The judges said: “This team leads the way with taking a cinema-first approach, championing the medium across all of Samsung’s products with a range of creative partnerships, long-term sponsorship deals and bespoke ident takeovers. They push hard and deliver at every opportunity.”

The Samsung AV Team has long understood the importance of cinema as part of its AV Plans, regularly planning AGPs alongside their TV and Video campaigns to help extend reach in a premium environment.

In the past year alone, the team has grown Samsung’s presence across the big screen with the development and execution of three key partnerships that utilised the unique opportunities offered by the cinema medium. These partnerships were designed to target key demographics, drive business results for Samsung, and showcase the team’s commitment to smart media planning, strategic thinking, and creative solutions, delivering significant results.

The 2023 judges:

Bhavesh Patel, director of media – UK & Europe, Sky
Clare Chapman, outgoing CEO, Carat, UK
Davina Barker, sales director, Digital Cinema Media
Enyi Nwosu, chief strategy officer, UM London
James Shoreland, CEO UK & Ireland, Initiative
John Marshall, founder, Running Total Media
Karen Stacey, CEO, Digital Cinema Media
Kelly Parker, CEO, Wavemaker
Nadine Young, CEO, Starcom
Neil Harrison, head of media, Virgin Media O2 Brand & Marketing
Pete Edwards, CEO Spark, Foundry
Satin Reid, COO, EssenceMediacom UK
Victoria Bickle, managing director, mSix&Partners

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