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More Beacons, Now Coordinated With In-Lobby Video Screens, Invade Movie Theaters
Proximity marketer Thinaire, working with Panasonic and IBM’s Watson, will be sending mobile marketing to moviegoers in the lobbies of a thousand US theaters.
Coming to a movie screen near you: the battle of the beacons.
Last week, we reported on the rollout of beacons and beacon-based marketing messages over the next 60 days to 300 movie theaters in the US, by cinema ad network Screenvision and beacon network Mobiquity.
This week, proximity engagement marketer Thinaire announced that it is taking this idea to the next step. Starting in second quarter, it is rolling out large LCD screens, beacons and coordinated mobile messaging to the lobbies of about a thousand movie theaters in the US.
There are several partners in this rollout, Thinaire chief marketing officer Tristan Louis told me.
The screens, from Panasonic, range from 40 to 85 inches diagonally. One or two will be installed in the lobby of each participating theater. The specific theater chains will be announced in about a month, he said.
Each Panasonic screen will show a sequence of silent still images or short video clips from a movie that’s coming to that theater, received via WiFi or 3G/4G. Here’s a phone video recording of the screen in Thinaire’s New York City offices.
Near each screen will be a beacon transmitting its location identifier. That location ID will be picked up by those theater patrons in the lobby who have a supported app installed, such as MovieTickets.com. Louis said other as-yet-unidentified movie and retailer apps will also be supported.
The location ID is then sent to Thinaire’s servers via the moviegoer’s 3G/4G or via the theater’s WiFi (if it exists). Thinaire returns a push notification to the customer’s mobile device, which is viewable whether or not the app is open. A click on the notification deep-links into the supported app, with material related to the movie on the Panasonic screen — more stills, info on the actors in the movie, a short clip and so on — showing in the opened app. With MovieTickets.com and similar movie apps, customers can also buy tickets for the upcoming flick.
Thinaire has built up a database of anonymous user profiles — which Louis said currently numbers in the “tens of millions” — from previous proximity projects in sports stadiums and other locations, as well as from acquired third-party data.
While you’re standing there in front of the Panasonic screen, the Thinaire system will seek to find your mobile device ID in its data store. If it does, it might be able to determine your gender, your age or other characteristics. If the system knows that, say, three of the four people standing in front of the screen are parents — even though it can’t tell if they brought their children — the images/video on the Panasonic screen might instantly switch to previews for an upcoming movie for children.
Louis said three major movie studios have already signed on to this package, which Thinaire has dubbed its Video Solutions, although he declined to identify them right now. Four other studios, he said, are in discussion. The studios pay Thinaire, which shares its revenue with the theaters. Thinaire does not receive a cut of movie ticket sales from the apps, and, Louis pointed out, the theaters also get better data about their customers.
And, playing a supporting but critical role: none other than IBM’s Watson, the Jeopardy-winning cognitive supercomputer, which will be providing sentiment analysis of location-based social media so as to better inform Thinaire what to show on the screen.
One imagines, for instance, that Watson might detect geo-located tweets from that theater’s lobby indicating moviegoers are worried about an ice storm raging outside. In this scenario, the system might then suggest preview images and video on one of the Panasonic screens of, say, an upcoming Hawaii-based comedy.
This is Thinaire’s first implementation of its beacon/messaging in movie theaters, and the first with the Panasonic screens. Previous proximity installations have included the Detroit Pistons stadium, where fans could receive location- and event-specific messaging around the venue.
As with Mobiquity/Screenvision, I asked Thinaire’s Louis if this kind of mobile marketing invasion of movie theaters will lead to moviegoers checking their smartphones in the theater while the movie is on.
Mobiquity/Screenvision had assured me that in-theater mobile marketing was not in their current plans, although they didn’t rule it out in the future.
Louis said that when this project was first being set up, the theater chains made it clear to Thinaire that in-theater messaging “was a non-starter.”
He pointed out that a big differentiator between Thinaire’s approach and the one adopted by Mobiquity and Screenvision is that Thinaire’s will never go beyond the lobby into the theaters.
Lab tests of the Panasonic-enhanced Video Solutions system, he said, “forced us to do some fine tuning,” because customers were worried the in-lobby mobile messaging could turn into “spam engines.”
He also pointed out that not every moviegoer standing around a Panasonic screen in the lobby will receive a message from Thinaire, but only those whose profiles seem appropriate.
But, I noted and he agreed, someone who just received photos of a great upcoming movie on his phone, when he dashed out to get popcorn, may well want to share his phone’s screen with a nearby friend as soon as he returns to his seat.
Just as the movie is reaching its dramatic climax, no doubt.