Since the early days of mobile, cinema-goers have been urged to turn off their phones. (Sometimes their fellow film fans have even gone so far as calling 911 to report those who don't.) Soon, however, those settling in to watch a film may be actively encouraged to use their mobiles in theaters to interact more deeply with film-themed brand content after the lights go down.
This October, cinema-goers in three of the U.K.'s largest chains will be invited to download a new app called Cinime. Once the app is on his or her phone, a mobile user can request content triggered either by an inaudible signal accompanying the ads they are watching, or by placing the phone on posters in the cinema foyer.
What makes Cinime distinctive, however, is that it does not depend on Wi-Fi or 3G. Instead, it is powered by Phonix—a proprietary technology platform developed by Yummi Media, a London-based second screen specialist who developed the app for the company, which sells 80% of cinema advertising in the U.K.: Digital Cinema Media (DCM).
"Cinema has relied on selling big-screen advertising for many years but has recently found itself under growing pressure to become more dynamic as an ad medium and spread beyond more than just one platform," DCM commercial director Joe Evea explains.
The trouble is, while TV broadcasters have learned to embrace the fact that a growing proportion of their audience spends a growing proportion of their time engaging with two screens at once—watching TV and their mobile simultaneously, for example, or via TV and laptop—cinemas have been more restricted.
In fact by choosing to limit Wi-Fi and 3G access within their buildings, cinema owners have sought to actively dissuade people using their mobile—especially during films. Which is why DCM set out to find a way to overcome this that would benefit audiences, advertisers, and cinema managers, alike.
So while Cinime allows users to download content even in-theatre up until the film starts, access to that content via a user's mobile is locked until the film's end. When someone downloads the app, meanwhile, their age and sex is logged enabling advertisers to deliver more tightly targeted and relevant content.
Cinime has four key features, Yummi Media partnerships director Keith Scarratt explains. "Audio watermarking enables the cinema to embed an inaudible code in an existing file—a commercial, for example—so when played out in the cinema, it unlocks the user's phone," he says.
"Image recognition enables the user to scan a poster with their phone to unlock related content—for example, a movie trailer. A time feature means content accessed using the app is locked during the film's performance. And a geo-location feature enables location-specific messages—directing a user, for example, to the nearest place they can redeem an offer."
Cinime isn't just a new platform for vouchers and tactical promotions, however. It also promises a new creative tool that will enable cinema advertising creativity to further evolve.
"Cinema advertising creativity has come a long way in recent years, and there have been a number of striking examples of this involving live experiences and 3-D," Evea observes, citing a New Zealand campaign created by Colenso BBDO for Pedigree.
In that campaign, the 3-D feed was split to enable audiences in the same cinema to view two different ads. So, when invited to make a donation to the advertiser's dog adoption scheme, those people saying yes were given green 3-D glasses enabling them to watch an uplifting ad about rescued dogs. Those saying no, however, received red glasses and—though seated in the same auditorium—viewed a different, more heart-wrenching depiction of the dogs' plight.
But brands have struggled to take full creative advantage of the cross-platform potential of the cinema-going experience.
"We look forward to how cinime is used by brands and their agencies to create a whole new kind of live cinema advertising experience both in cinemas and outside—on the way to or from the cinema, even, using the app to interact with a film-related ad at, say, a bus stop," Evea adds.
"Cinema has always had the capacity to be a creative advertising medium, but this has been hard to leverage for advertisers beyond isolated pockets. We now hope Cinime will take cinema advertising creativity to a new level."
Scarratt agrees. "Cinime opens a new world for brands to create richer relationships with their customers through greater connectivity and more relevant, engaging content experiences," he says. Meanwhile, Yummi Media is now considering how best to further develop Phonix to create two-screen experiences for other media—notably broadcast TV and at outdoor events.
[Images courtesy of Cinime]