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Moviegoers Protest 'The Cove'

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Despite movie theaters’ persistent messages to “turn off your cell phones” when films begin, one documentary is motivating nearly one in 10 activists to turn on, text in and speak out against the clandestine slaughter of dolphins in a Japanese village during its closing credits.

That movie is The Cove, the 2009 Sundance Film Festival’s Audience Award winner that was released domestically by Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions this summer. Participant Media handled The Cove’s social action campaign, and hired San Francisco-based Waterfall Mobile to create the text program with its Msgme, a simple messaging platform that works across all mobile phones.

“You don’t usually see short codes after a film, but people get inspired after documentaries,” explained Patrick J. Kearney, vp-technology and platforms for Participant Media. “We wanted to get people at the moment of inspiration, and we think mobile is a great way to do this.”

According to Participant’s data, nine percent of moviegoers texted “DOLPHIN” to 44144 after seeing the message on screen, which is an unusually high conversion rate for an opt-in program. Additionally, 22 percent of those who texted also clicked through to the petition supporting the closing of The Cove, which is being forwarded to President Obama and the Japanese Ambassador to the U.S., Ichiro Fujisaki.

The Cove was the first time Participant has so prominently featured a mobile campaign as the in-theater call-to-action.

“With 'An Inconvenient Truth,' there were a lot of actions people could take,” said Kearney, who noted that moviegoers must have been incensed if they turned their phones back on to protest. “With this, we wanted to shut The Cove down. It was a very binary type campaign.”