At last week's Cannes Media Lions awards event, Volvo's interactive cinema marketing program--"Driving Game," via Nitro and MindShare--won a Bronze Lion in the "target audience" category. The in-cinema campaign, which ran last October, centered on a video game executed on a grand scale: the game was played by entire movie-house audiences in the UK to tout the Volvo XC70 SUV and support its "Life is Better Lived Together" global marketing mantra.
In the game--called "CrowdGaming," by New York-based Brand Experience Lab (BEL), which developed it--audience members moved a virtual Volvo SUV onscreen by waving their arms in the air in unison. The game, which ran in 12 cinemas during showings of "Ratatouille," had audiences working together to earn points on a virtual driving course, with the audience with the most points getting free movie tickets.
What a great way to tout Volvo, group-think and vehicles of the virtual kind. MindShare allegedly claims the idea to do this came from it, and MindShare's CEO allegedly sat on the board of the committee that gave MindShare the Lion nod. But the first ad-campaign use of the technology was via New York-based shop SS+K some half a year earlier for client MSNBC.com, per BEL and SS+K.
The shop used CrowdGaming to launch MSNBC.com's NewsBreaker video game, wherein one can collect news stories for points. That campaign had audiences at the 2007 premiere of "Spiderman" in National Amusements theaters controlling a virtual paddle in a large-screen version of "NewsBreaker," a game resembling the '70s-era Atari staple "Breakout," wherein players eliminate descending bricks by directing the a bouncing ball. In MSNBC.com's game, when the bricks shattered, real-time headlines would emerge. The game first ran in the L.A. theater The Bridge: Cinema de Lux, and then for nine weeks in other markets.
"We did develop it for use by agencies," says David Polinchock, chairman of BEL. "It had not been used that way before SS+K; they and MSNBC helped catapult it by being first to use it in cinemas." Says SS+K in a statement: "SS+K worked with BEL to create the first in-cinema game. The technology predated both campaigns but SS+K had the idea to apply it as an advertising vehicle in their campaign, and msnbc.com took the risk to make it a reality."
MSNBC.com's agency also says MindShare/Nitro cribbed from the footage of its NewsBreaker campaign to pass as "Driving Game" audience footage: per SS+K, MindShare's entry for Cannes includes a screen shot from SS+K's NewsBreaker installation at Cinema de Lux, not from a UK theater audience driving the virtual Volvo.
Calls to Group M, the parent company of MindShare, for comment were not returned Tuesday by press time.