Hundreds Of Local Movie Theaters Will Soon Become Beacon Hot Spots
Beacon network Mobiquity and theater advertiser Screenvision team up to bring mobile marketing to U.S. moviegoers.
The days are long gone when the only things you saw at a movie theater were the movie, and previews for movies.
These days, it’s not uncommon to watch as much as half an hour of on-screen ads before the movie previews start. Oh, yes, and there’s also a movie.
Those pure movie-only days are getting further away, with the joint announcement today by Mobiquity Networks and Screenvision that they will install and manage iBeacons throughout 300 multiplexes in the U.S. to create the largest movie theater-based mobile ad network.
Mobiquity runs what it describes as the biggest network in the U.S. of retail mall-based beacons for mobile ads — nearly 500 shopping malls — and Screenvision has a cinema advertising network covering almost 2300 movie theater complexes in the U.S., representing 14,200 screens. Discussions are now underway with marketers about specific ad/marketing campaigns.
The companies said the beacons will be installed over the next 60 days. While there have been some experiments with beacons in movie theaters, Mobiquity Chief Marketing Officer Jim Meckley told me that “no one has taken it to the level of a network of beacons [with] mobile apps in theaters.”
Beacons will be used, instead of GPS-based location marketing, so that mobile marketers can determine exactly where the moviegoer is, inside the complex.
Beacons employ low-power Bluetooth transmissions to emit a location ID to a listening mobile app, which then communicates the location via cellular data or WiFi to the marketer’s server, and receives back location-specific marketing. Because the beacon has a specific location, the location can be very specific inside a large building, as opposed to, say, geo-fencing that just locates a facility.
iBeacons cannot be monitored remotely without modification, but Screenvision Chief Marketing Officer John McCauley said theater personnel will keep an eye on them.
The customer needs to have a supported app installed, such as two movie-related ones, MovieTickets or Dealflicks. Meckley said that some retail shopping apps used in the Mobiquity networks, like Shopular, will also work. The apps do not need to be open to receive the beacon’s location or to receive and show push notifications, as long as the user has opted-in.
A moviegoer who just left a screening might receive additional marketing relating to the movie they’ve just seen, such as a coupon for a Star Wars mask. Or they might get a coupon for an ad they saw earlier in the theater. If they are using the MovieTickets or Dealflicks app, and they bought their tickets through that service, they might receive an ad or coupon related to the movie as they’re waiting in line to see it.
Another possibility: they might be pinged with a coupon for a discount on a large popcorn as they walk by the concession stand. The companies said the user engagement data will be shared with the theaters.
At this point, you might be shuddering — as I am — at the thought that moviegoers may also be receiving ads or coupons while they’re in the theater, and maybe even during the movie.
As someone who once ran a film theater (CENTER SCREEN in Cambridge, Mass.), there are few things I’d less rather do than spend $12 or more per ticket, watch twenty minutes or more of commercials before the previews and the show, and then share my attention on the big movie screen with the flickering light of smartphones around me.
“At this point,” Meckley told me, the mobile marketing will not be delivered “while people are in their seats.” He added that he doesn’t “envision that, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen,” if marketers can find a way to enhance the screen experience.
As someone who has also been involved in interactive media for several decades, the fact that many movie theaters utilize digital video projection these days raises the interesting possibility that there could be interaction between your smart phone and what’s on the screen. Meckley suggested there might be interactive quizzes communicating with what’s on the screen, or voting on alternative endings.
“Delight And Surprise”
That sounds … interesting. Once in a long while.
But not for the regular movie theater experience. It wouldn’t take much to transform movie watching into something more like watching commercial TV, except with a bigger screen, a popcorn stand, a smattering of small lighted screens and interacting users, and pricey tickets.
Both executives assured me that mobile marketing to movie theaters will be done carefully, after “a fair bit of learning” about what maintains or enhances the customer experience.
“We’re not communicating that we’ve figured it out,” Screenvision’s McCauley said, adding that it was necessary to appropriately “cinematize the opportunity.”
But there is also currently no mechanism in place — field surveys, for instance, or established best practices — to assess if the user experience has been properly “cinematized,” beyond the engagement data that is returned from the mobile apps.
And that won’t tell marketers if they’ve just ruined your night at the movies.
“We have a mandate from our property owners to protect the consumer experience,” Meckley said. Any mobile marketing to moviegoers in their seats, he added, will have to “delight and surprise.”
I just hope we haven’t seen this movie before.