NEW YORK MSNBC.com today opens a new chapter in its $5 million ad campaign from independent SS+K.
At The Bridge movie house in Los Angeles, before the midnight showing of Spider-Man 3, patrons will be able to play a game called Newsbreaker Live, which is similar to Atari's 1980s-era game Breakout.
Instead of using a joystick, the audience will position the on-screen paddle by moving to the left or right. The more they move in unison, the more responsive the paddle will be. As the ball bounces around the movie screen, headlines from MSNBC.com cascade down the screen.
"We put a motion-sensing camera in front of the audience to track the collective movement of the room," said Sam Mazur, acd, copywriter for SS+K. "They'll be like human joysticks."
Newsbreaker Live follows the computer version of the game, called Newsbreaker, which was released a few weeks ago. In Newsbreaker, players move a paddle along the bottom of their computer screen and try to destroy color blocks with a small silver ball. Headlines can be banked to be read after the game is over.
After Los Angeles, MSNBC.com will take the technology to Philadelphia, then White Plains, N.Y. The initiative will be used for movies believed to have gamer appeal, such as Harry Potter VII, Shrek the Third, Pirates of the Caribbean, Fantastic 4 and Transformers.
Other elements of the campaign, which began on April 2 and will run until the end of June, include 35 print ads in publications such as The New Yorker, Entertainment Weekly and Newsweek. There is also a screensaver that visualizes the different headlines available at spectrum.msnbc.com.
MSNBC is spending $5 million on this effort, the company said. Last year it spent $3 million in measured media, according to TNS Media Intelligence.
The irreverent approach embodied by using a video game to deliver the news was intentional.
"One thing we heard from our consumers was that, of course, we have the news of the day, but we have so much more," said Catherine Captain, MSNBC.com vp, marketing. "The news of day is often hard and heavy and tragic, and people wanted a site that was colorful, where they could enjoy the pursuit of the news itself. The vehicle itself can be entertaining even if the content is heavy."