More Studios Going Wireless to Promote Films

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Movie studios are quickly increasing their use of wireless messaging to promote new films after marketers have received response rates of 10 percent to 20 percent for targeted campaigns.


Sony/Columbia Tristar will preview its Aug. 9 United Kingdom release of the computer-generated "Final Fantasy" with text messages to 60,000 UK mobile phone users on Aug. 6.


The wireless push, which will be sent to Los Angeles-based Premium Wireless Services/YourMobile Networks, targets the film's primary demographic: 14- to 25-year-old males. PWS has built a database of nearly 3 million users who have chosen to receive free ring tones and logos.


The message reads, in all caps: "R u ready to enter a world so real it will blow your mind? Final fantasy-unleashed in cinemas [Aug.9]. C more & book online with odeon@ff.co.uk."


PWS CEO Anthony Stonefield believes more entertainment companies are using wireless marketing because of high response rates. "A 10 percent actual response rate appears to be what people are seeing," Stonefield said. PWS has conducted successful wireless campaigns for MTV, Nintendo, Universal Music Television and other entertainment firms.


In another major commitment to wireless marketing, New Line Cinema and Riot Entertainment plan a three-continent wireless messaging push for New Line's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy starting in September.


Through agreements with wireless carriers that have not been named yet, Riot-E hopes to sign up several million people to receive text messages as well as gaming and other interactive information on third-generation platforms throughout the three films' releases in 2001, 2002 and 2003.


Riot-E has built a wireless community of 110 million users through partnerships with carriers in Europe and Asia, and it plans to expand to 300 million in Europe, Asia and the United States.


"This is one of the big cases that will prove there is really a global promotional opportunity in this business," said Jan Wellmann, CEO of wireless content publisher Riot-E, based in Helsinki, Finland.


Although Riot-E has launched overseas campaigns for the films "Bridget Jones's Diary" and "X-Men," the "Lord of the Rings" push is the company's first film promotion project in the United States. "U.S. [wireless] operators are looking for a competitive advantage ... and entertainment content is the driving force in the wireless content industry," Wellmann said.


The database of opt-in names and numbers for the "Lord of the Rings" films will likely be generated primarily from wireless carriers and their Web sites, but some names will come from partner brands and Riot-E.


Meanwhile, Universal Studios began a major wireless marketing push for "Jurassic Park III" in late June. The three-month promotion with Upoc Inc., New York, allows mobile users to opt in for text messages, polls, voice mails from the cast and the director, and promotions with MSN and other partners.


"There are 'Jurassic Park' super-fans who want to know whatever they can know about the movie," said Greg Clayman, director of marketing at Upoc.


One message invites wireless users to visit www.jp3.msn.com and sign up for a Universal Studios sweepstakes. Fans enter their names, birth dates, phone numbers and addresses to win a trip for two to Costa Rica. Another promotion at www.jurassicpark.com invites users to enter for a chance to win a trip to Universal's Islands of Adventure theme park in Orlando, FL.


Members of Upoc also have formed a separate wireless "Jurassic Park" group on Upoc called Dinosaur Noises. "People make their own noises and send them to their friends," Clayman said.


Although Upoc has marketed several other films, the "Jurassic Park" project is the first mobile promotion of this magnitude and the first to include voice messages from the cast and directors, he said.


"Anything that adds another sense [audio] brings a whole different level of involvement," he said. "It's the kind of thing that you are more likely to forward to your friends ... and helps to spread the promotion via word of mouth."


Ben Macklin, senior analyst at eMarketer, New York, predicts that studios will be using wireless advertising much more often in the future.


"As soon as carriers roll out next-generation networks and they're able to provide subscribers with increased data capability, we'll see more sound bites and small, two-second videos," Macklin said.


However, he does not expect the third-generation networks to be fully operational for four or five years.


Still, wireless ad spending projections range from $2.1 million to $6.8 million in 2005.


And the 18- to 29-year-old audience, part of the target audience of "Jurassic Park III" and "Final Fantasy," is the most willing to receive mobile advertising, according to a recent report from The Strategis Group.


"The best hope for advertisers is to go for the age group under 30 years old," Macklin said. "Considering the fastest-growing sector of wireless users are within this sector, there is still a large potential audience."


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