Future Tool

In the futuristic movie Minority Report, Tom Cruise is overwhelmed by interactive ads. If you thought this was just sci-fi fantasy, then think again.

If technology company ThinkingPictures has its way, gone will be the days of mere paper movie posters. Why put pictures of Spider-Man on movie house walls when you can place plasma screens side by side and have Spider-Man fly from screen to screen? Plus, these posters talk. Whether it's a trailer from an upcoming movie or a short film brought to you by your local sponsor (think BMW films), ThinkingPictures is looking to make moviegoers linger at movie posters, not walk past them.

The technology behind these "talking billboards" will make hanging out in a theater lobby an interactive experience. ThinkingPictures builds movie servers for theaters, which are connected to the ThinkingPictures network. The billboards are linked to a movie theater's server through a broadband Internet connection. ThinkingPictures creates the content that will appear in the talking billboards, and sends this content from its server to the movie theater's server.

John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theater Owners, says this new technology has the potential for success, as long as it stays unique. "Traditional media has become tired and cluttered. Anything interactive that entertains and draws attention yet is different from an ad a person can see on TV will be a hit for both moviegoers and advertisers."

ThinkingPictures currently has 30 interactive billboards in movie theaters on the East Coast and in the Midwest. Their goal? To capture a piece of an impressive U.S. cinema audience: 74% of the moviegoing audience is between 18 and 49, with teens accounting for 49% of "frequent moviegoers."

ThinkingPictures offers five different creative options to advertisers and movie studios. The creatives are an "active one-sheet," "synchronized screens" (such as having Spider-Man jump from screen to screen), "roadblock" (where one advertiser's message is forced upon a viewer), "sponsored programming" (digital short films), and "Lumi-logo." Lumi-logo is designed for companies looking to brand their product across all markets. Sold as a run-of-network buy, Lumi-logo shows an illuminated company logo, along with sound and graphics (the MGM roaring lion is a prime example).

These displays can determine the number of times a trailer was shown, how many people walked up to them, and even how long they stayed. ThinkingPictures is working on having the displays capture specific behavioral information about a consumer by using electronic "smart cards." Moviegoers could receive these "smart cards" by divulging personal information about themselves (and the types of movies they see) in return for discounts. Fithian says that this "unique in-theater communication" is the key to the technology.

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