Thomas van de Weerd – Pathé Thuis

Thomas van de Weerd – Pathé Thuis

Thomas van de Weerd is CEO and co-founder of Pathé Thuis, the video-on-demand service of Pathé, one of the largest movie theatre chains in the Netherlands. Thomas: “We wanted to facilitate a movie theatre experience in your own living room. We started in 2010, the time when Free Record Shop was still around, and most people were walking around with a Nokia. The idea was creating a digital equivalent of Pathé for those who wanted to watch movies at home, and create a complimentary experience besides the great joy of going to the theatre.”

Main KPIs for growth

“The way we measure our success and growth is through the number of watched films, or transactions”, Thomas continues. “People often make the comparison with streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Disney+, which is understandable. However, the big difference is that we are a transactional service. Other streaming services work with subscriptions, whilst our consumers only pay for the movies they want to watch. Our main KPI is transactions, similar to other E-commerce businesses.” Next to that, there are a few other measures which Pathé Thuis looks at. Thomas: “From a campaign perspective, we look at the number of new accounts created. We also look at traffic to our website and apps, but new accounts is our main measure. Registering for an account is free, step two in the funnel is converting those accounts to making their first movie purchase. With subscription services, they often look at the number of monthly payments that are going out each month. We measure our number of users by looking at how many accounts were active in the last 52 months, as we also have customers who only watch one or two movies a year. Over those 52 months, we have around 900.000 active customers.”

Thomas shares that one of the most important things is having your distribution in order: “Make sure you have your service on those devices that people use to watch entertainment on. For streaming in general, you should be present on smart TV’s, mobile, and you need a website. If you don’t have that in order, you shouldn’t spend a dime on marketing. Second, you need to make sure your service works properly, your offer is varied, and payments work smoothly. There are plenty of examples of brands that had already spend a lot of marketing money, whilst their product wasn’t up to par yet. We have been guilty of that in 2012. Your first customers, your ambassadors, and early adopters are what you should invest your money in, that is the start of your growth.”

“You want to shout from the rooftops that this is the time to start watching movies at home. But you see the economy taking a huge blow, and you feel you should stay quiet.”

Role of creatives

Thomas: “When I think of creativity, I always think of something we said at the start: ‘soon, you will be able to watch Harry Potter anywhere, but where will you make the difference?’ For us, that is customer experience: the functionality of the app, ease of use, payment process, creative design. How do we make the customer journey as effortless as possible, and fit our target group? That was our first priority. Now, we are focusing more on bringing Pathé Thuis across to those who don’t know us yet. I have discovered that a good campaign needs to answer the ‘why’-question; why should I use Pathé Thuis? Nowadays, the consumer is spoiled for choice when it comes to streaming services. They have a very short attention span, so you have limited time to communicate your relevance. With our creatives, we try to bring across that movie night feel. We see other streaming services more like TV, more impulsive, turning it off when you don’t feel like watching anymore. Pathé Thuis is a dedicated movie night with friends and family. When I look at the numbers, the average household could stream Netflix on 3 different devices at the same time, all watching something different. Watching a movie together is a different type of entertainment experience, and that is something we try to bring across in our creatives. It’s a getaway in the comfort of your own home.”

Creative process

According to Thomas, Pathé Thuis has two layers on which their creatives operate: “We have the branding side, which is moving more towards seasonal campaigns in the last quarter of the year, and our short-term activities which we carry out throughout the year. Think of being present on programming websites, or movie inspiration platforms, we have a dedicated performance marketer working on this side of things. Another piece of the puzzle is business to business and gift cards. We are the only service where you can gift a movie. You can gift someone a Netflix subscription for a month, but you can’t gift them a movie. This has become a fast-growing channel for new customers.”

When it comes to testing their creatives, Pathé Thuis uses a few different sources. Thomas: “We gather data and feedback from our best customers, our ambassadors, as well as internal feedback: everyone on our team is a Pathé Thuis user and ambassador. Next to that, we work together with a research agency to gain insights on how to improve or change our services, or find out whether our perception matches reality. Lastly, we look at our customer service, as their input can be incredibly valuable in improving our communication. I feel we are making a lot of progress in this area, as we did not use to work with a research agency. Although the type of partnership is still limited, looking at our campaigns and what is happening around them, has been offering us a ton of insights.”

A 2020 movie night

The pandemic had a huge impact on brands and their marketing activities. Thomas: “On the one hand, you want to shout from the rooftops that this is the time to start watching movies at home. But on the other hand, you see the economy taking a huge blow, and you feel you should stay quiet. However, data showed that a lot of people wanted to watch movies. In the spring of 2020, more people watched a movie through Pathé Thuis than ever before. At the time, we decided to offer a selection of movies for free. We didn’t create a campaign, we just shared that we were offering a movie for free, every day, for a whole month. And to contrary belief, it required a big investment from our side to do so. In the end, it turned out to be a success. It was sincere from our side, the feedback was very positive, and it contributed to our visibility. At the end of 2020, it felt good to start up our campaigns again. We are still monitoring this weekly, as the situation changes constantly, but it felt good to communicate about a movie night at home again.”