Please turn on your cell phones before the movie


I love going to the movies. In fact, I'm one of those people that will happily get to the theater and grab my seats a full 20 minutes before my movie's scheduled show time just to make sure I don't miss the previews! Plus there's always something on the screen nowadays, even half an hour beforehand, so I know there will at least be some way to entertain myself. And now, new digital technology may make the experience even more enjoyable and - most importantly for advertisers - memorable.

Verizon Wireless and cinema-advertising network Screenvision teamed up last month to produce some new forms of digital technology to make the movie-going experience more interactive for the average couch potato spectator. Select movie theaters in major cities across the U.S. tested this technology, polling the audience and having them text their responses through their cellphones. Polls would ask questions about the audience's music preferences (or maybe their favorite movie!) and display the results later on the screen. Naturally these polls could be expanded to product and content questions that could help advertisers learn more about their target markets. Along with the polls, a Verizon-branded, Spike Lee-directed short film posed content questions to the audience which were, again, answered via cellphone, regardless of audience members' wireless service or phone model.
Screenvision competitor, National CineMedia (the makers of the pre-show "FirstLook" in some theaters) is also developing and testing new technology to encourage active audience participation with interactive gaming. Brought to audience members through a partnership with Brand Experience Lab, these games involve the use of motion-sensor technology installed in the theater itself, challenging the audience to act as human joysticks to catch falling objects on screen and compete with other clusters of audience members in the theater.
The best thing about this interactive technology is that it encourages active participation from its audience, greatly enhancing recall. According to the VP of Marketing at MSNBC.com, Catherine Captain, audience polls showed 71% unaided recall of MSNBC.com as the sponsor for these interactive games, with 78% actual audience participation. Unsurprisingly, 93% of those polled said they would prefer to play a game than watch commercials before the movie. Really, I think any method of encouraging active participation on the audience's part, whether through polls, games, or something else, is a great idea for marketers looking to advertise on the big screen. Especially now that most movies seem to be averaging at least two to two and a half hours these days, a pre- or post-movie experience that goes beyond passive sitting and viewing will certainly be refreshing to most any audience! I can't wait to test this new technology myself - hope it comes to my theater soon!