July 07, 2009
Movie Kiosks Dispense Coupons for Sprint
Lights, Camera, Action for Concession Coupons
By STEPHANIE CLIFFORD
FILM producers spend millions every year to draw audiences to their movies. Now, advertisers are beginning to benefit from that, using not only movie screens for their commercials, but the lobbies of cinemas as well.
This month through December, Sprint Nextel is sponsoring a cinema-centric marketing effort, placing kiosks in about 500 movie theaters nationwide. Sprint customers can scan in a code from their phones, and the kiosks will print coupons, like a free upgrade to a bigger popcorn or larger soda.
“We see a very natural affinity between cinemagoers and our target audience,” said Simon McPhillips, director of media for Sprint. With more people going to see films, it’s a good time for Sprint to go to the movies, he added.
Companies have been expanding their cinema advertising recently, realizing that theaters are good places to reach audiences that don’t have too many distractions.
For years, companies like Screenvision and National CineMedia have been running on-screen commercials before trailers started, and lately they have been offering new products for advertisers. National CineMedia operates TV screens at concession stands that feature ads.
Screenvision has a few new projects in the works: with Cinema Scene, it will expand the number of theaters featuring stand-alone digital panels that replace movie posters. They show trailers or images that can be changed every day, or even every hour. And it will also introduce a backlit ministage that displays a hologram later this year. These stages, about 8 feet by 8 feet, will be placed in theater lobbies, and marketers can use them to display any image they want, like a candy bar or a cellphone.
Those are scheduled for limited introduction this year and are more for the “wow” factor than anything else, said Michael Chico, executive vice president for sales and marketing at Screenvision.
Sprint, too, is becoming more creative with its cinema spots, Mr. McPhillips said.
“People with high mobile phone usage do tend to go to cinemas more than people with lower mobile phone usage,” he said. “Years back, when cinema advertising was just launching, people were a little skeptical on how it would be received. It’s only been around for a relatively short amount of time, but all the research that came back said, despite initial skepticism, people feel that the advertisements are not intruding — in fact, in many ways are complementing — the overall event.”
Sprint uses National CineMedia’s network to run what are known as courtesy spots — reminders to silence cellphones — just before the movie (this spring, it added a warning not to text during a movie).
The idea is not to get moviegoers to switch phone companies then and there, but to show off what Sprint can do, Mr. McPhillips said.
“We’ve got a term called brand utility, and what we’re looking to do with brand utility is use the phone as a marketing device, leveraging the benefits of a mobile phone,” he said. “Any marketing is obviously looking to improve people’s perceptions of the brand and bring them closer to the Sprint experience: the ‘Now network,’ living in the now — what that means is being in touch, wanting to get the most out of ‘now,’ whether it’s getting data on your phone or sharing an experience.”
Sometimes, as in the red-carpet texting campaign, Sprint allows any cellphone customer to participate. But with the kiosk, Sprint has a different goal.
“The first was a reward for their own customers, building that loyalty, and the other was the envy factor,” said Christine Martino, national account director for Screenvision, which brought the idea to Sprint.
The kiosk works by instructing Sprint customers to text a certain word (like “Sprint”) to a certain phone number. The customers then receive a text message that includes a string of letters and numbers. The kiosk includes a computer screen next to a scanning device, and people hold up their cellphones, scan that code and can browse through a few offers on the screen. The customers select their offer, and the kiosk prints a receipt that people can take to the concession stand for free upgrades, like a larger popcorn.