Cinemas Are Teaming Up With Shazam for a Blockbuster Mobile Ad Experience

Could open up opportunities in other new venues

Despite incremental growth in second-screen viewing, marketers still haven’t cracked the code on how to effectively advertise to smartphone users who are also watching TV. But brands are hoping that second screens will soon get a boost from the big screen.

Shazam and SoundHound, smartphone apps rooted in music discovery, inked deals this spring with cinema ad networks National CineMedia and Screenvision, respectively, that allow movie advertisers to tie audio-recognition features into preshow promotions on consumers’ devices.

And this summer, NCM (which in May announced it would acquire Screenvision) will roll out its first Shazam-enabled campaign with The Weinstein Co. and Walden Media to promote sci-fi drama The Giver. The two-month summer campaign includes on-screen preshow spots with creative that will change every two weeks. Calls-to-action reinforce that a slew of digital content—including information about the film, ticket and book sales, contests and trivia—can be unlocked by opening the Shazam app while the spots run. “We’re trying to set up this multiple touch point approach with the film itself,” explained Steve Ochs, svp of marketing at NCM Media Networks. The campaign also includes a selfie contest and heavy social and Web promotions.

Encouraging moviegoers to use their smartphones in theaters is still a relatively new concept, and one that’s top of mind given that 50 percent of NCM’s patrons are millennials, who are the most active mobile and social demographic. “It stands to reason that marketing, whether you’re promoting a film or anything else, is exponentially more effective if the audience can somehow participate,” said Stephen Bruno, president of marketing at The Weinstein Co.

However, NCM is quick to point out that the promotions will run only during preshows. Once trailers begin to roll, moviegoers are reminded to turn off their phones.

As promising as these developments are, the challenges with cinema mobile marketing are likely to carry over from at-home second-screen ads. One of marketers’ biggest gripes with second-screen ads is that short spots don’t give consumers enough time to complete multiple steps. In the case of in-cinema, this could be an even bigger headache, as moviegoers may not even be in the theater during the preshow.

“We’re excited that cinema vendors are making an opportunity for us to test in this space, and we just want to make sure we use it in a way that gives the consumers appropriate and meaningful experiences with our brands,” said Darcy Bowe, vp, human experience director at Starcom.

The inroads that second-screen apps are making with movie theaters could also open up ad opportunities elsewhere, said DigitasLBi’s Adam Shlachter, head of media activation for North America. For example, retailers and restaurants in close proximity to theaters could better tailor ads by layering in location and dayparted messaging that drives in-store traffic immediately after a film ends.

“Having more data and more signals to better understand the moments to market [a second-screen message] will just help brands get smarter about what the opportunities are in this space,” Shlachter said.

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