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True Spot Finds Its Audience

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LOS ANGELES True, the minority-advertising specialists partnered with Omnicom's TBWA\Chiat\Day, pulled off an advertising stunt during the weekend that was equal parts Brechtian experimental theater and William Castle-esque '60s-movie schlock. During certain screenings of Paramount's The Fighting Temptations at the Loews Broadway in Santa Monica, Calif., actors planted in the audience "spontaneously" responded to a Nissan Altima spot created by the agency and placed via cinema-advertising company Screenvision.

The spot was designed to be interactive, said True chief operating officer Valencia Gayles. In the ad, filmed by creative director Christopher Davis, an African-American actress directs her gaze to specific seats in the theatre and asks, "Who are you?"—which is the theme of a current TV, print and interactive campaign. The 30-second spot stresses that Altima "is not a traditional sedan, but one with personality that's unique and different," explained Gayles. The four actors respond, scripted, on cue.

Davis reported that about 200 people attended the shows, breaking into applause on at least one occasion after they caught on. At the conclusion of the screenings of the film (a gospel-music-themed romantic comedy starring Cuba Gooding Jr. and Beyonce Knowles in which inspired Baptist churchgoers jump out of their pews), audience members were polled by the research firm GTM in Los Angeles. On a one to five scale, audience favorable response averaged a four, said Davis, and recall of the brand, if not the model, was high. A Vibe magazine giveaway with an earmarked Altima ad that features the same actress should explain the stunt to the audience, Gayles said. "Based on its success here, we'll be rolling it out to 10 markets," she said. "We only have to find the right theatres, the right show and the right weekend."

Davis said the team has already found the right show: Encouraged by the weekend results, True is solidifying a deal to repeat the theater advertising stunt before screenings of The Matrix Revolutions, set to open October 27. "The Matrix movies are of high interest to multicultural audiences," said Davis, acknowledging the element of surprise as important. "Other than the trade press, we're not going to televise it."