Beacons At The Movies: Screenvision And Mobiquity Add Proximity Marketing To Cinema Network

Initial installment places beacons in 300 theaters to complement an existing geofencing program.

Screenvision, the company that sells advertising at the movies, plans to install Mobiquity Networks’ beacons in 300 cineplexes as part of a plan to tie location-based marketing and access to filmgoers’ geo-data together on behalf of its brand clients.

The collaboration with Mobiquity comes seven months after Screenvision, which runs advertising at roughly 2,300 movie theaters, began partnering with location-analytics specialist SITO Mobile to geo-target moviegoers in and around its cineplexes in its network.

An Extended Cinema Engagement

The initiative with SITO, dubbed “Project Lynx,” was unveiled at Screenvision’s Upfront advertising preview last May. The goal was to offer national retail marketers and agencies greater ability to connect geo-targeted ads at and near movie theaters to drive in-store purchases.

SITO is continuing to provide the measurements and data that allow Screenvision to target moviegoers’ smartphones, as well as see what those consumers’ habits are once they leave the theater.

A year before that arrangement was made, Screenvision executives discussed the company’s intentions to explore the use of beacons to its advertising arsenal. This deal with Mobiquity, which has established existing beacon networks around U.S. malls and retailers, represents a significant complement to its collaboration with SITO, John McCauley, Screenvision’s chief strategic development officer, told GeoMarketing.

“When we started down this road toward ‘extended engagement’ with Project Lynx, we had already seen the onscreen impact becoming so much greater in the current advertising environment because media fragmentation and declining TV ratings,” McCauley said. “We felt it was important to create these extended advertising opportunities that connects consumers before, during, and after they go down the purchase path.”

From Movie Screens To Mobile Screens

The chief benefits Screenvision is promising its advertisers are the greater insights from its place-based data collection as well as the ability to retarget consumers based on that data.

“Beacons are another layer within that ability to use geofencing to get a little tighter when it comes to the data, since they can be placed in different parts of the auditoriums, lobby, concession areas,” McCauley said.

On top of that, the requirement that consumers opt-in with an app they’ve previously downloaded helps ensure that Screenvision isn’t being too invasive, since consumers have expressed an interest in seeing content from the app. Plus, by turning on their smartphone’s Bluetooth receiver, moviegoers are offering a direct acceptance of marketing messages.

Unique Opportunities And Challenges

By working with Mobiquity, Screenvision can tap into one of the largest mall-based, retail-focused mobile ad networks. Many of the 300 theaters — which include 2,500 movie screens — that will be a part of the initial beacon rollout will be based around some of Mobiquity’s 475-plus shopping malls.

The movie theater-based beacon networks will work both independently and in conjunction with Mobiquity’s retail mall-based beacon network, McCauley said.

Although all beacon programs have the challenge of encouraging smartphone users to download an app and open their Bluetooth reception, movie theaters have a unique challenge when compared to the premise offered by a chain store like Rite Aid, which this month revealed that it had placed — but not yet activated — beacons in all its 4,600 U.S. stores with proximity marketing platform inMarket.

Rite Aid, Rite Choice? While Rite Aid and other retailers see beacons as a way of helping consumers complete their in-store shopping as quickly as possible, Screenvision’s audience is staying put for the better part of two hours — and given the admonitions to turn off cell phones before the picture gets rolling, there isn’t a great deal of time to spur a purchase.

Acknowledging the singular obstacles that in-theater beacon-powered ads face, McCauley said that Mobiquity’s experience in attracting brands and consumers is one of the reasons it was chosen as a partner.

Furthermore, McCauley said the emphasis is on offering consumers waiting for their movie to start the use of interactive games, in addition to targeted pre/post-show ads, as well as retargeting later on, makes the use of beacons and geofencing perfectly viable.

Mobiquity does seem prepared to make it all work. In October,, an online box office for over 240 theater chains, struck a deal with Mobiquity to take advantage of consumers’ shopping mindset when at the malls the location ad network serves.

“Adding the right context to mobile campaigns is an effective method of boosting consumer engagement,” Jim Meckley, CMO of Mobiquity, told GeoMarketing at the time. “There are more than 1,700 unique movie theaters within a 10-mile radius of our malls, and given the movie industry’s interest in reaching mall shoppers, utilizing our network to reach this audience becomes a natural choice.

In any case, the timing of this beacon launch seems right. And while 300 theaters isn’t the largest rollout of these proximity devices, it is significant, particularly in light of this week’s confirmation from Unacast and Proxbook that there would be 400 million beacons in use by 2020, up from 4 million right now.

Aside from Rite Aid, other noteworthy beacon implementations over the past year have included Macy’s work with Shopkick to place 4,000 Bluetooth-powered devices in all its 850 stores; Target has connected Estimote’s beacon system to its branded iPhone app at its 1,800 U.S. outlets; and Lord & Taylor put Swirl Network’s beacons in all 50 if its stores ahead of Black Friday 2014.

Just this last week, proximity company Gimbal said it was joining mobile messaging platform Urban Airship to geo-target Broadway theaters via stage listings magazine Playbill’s app.

“We saw a great opportunity to leverage proximity-based technologies to further amplify the unrivaled impact of the 40 foot screen. Beacons will help extend that impact for brands and connect them to the consumer journey outside the theater,” McCauley said. “Mobiquity Networks has built considerable scale with a growing app publisher network, and is known for its commitment to protecting the consumer experience. They are an industry leader and we’re proud to collaborate with them as part of our market place solutions.”

Going @Hollywood

Beacons aren’t the only thing on Screenvision’s entertainment marketing agenda this week. In a separate piece of news, Screenvision launched a creative campaign for Vaseline Healing with Penske Media, the owner of entertainment trade publications Variety and Deadline.

The campaign is coordinated with Penske’s @hollywood news programming to give audiences nationwide access to the Vaseline Celebrity Lounge at Park City, Utah’s famed independent film festival.

Celebrity interviews were distributed digitally through Jan. 21-25, and a specialized content feature will run in Screenvision theaters Feb. 5-18.

During the segments hosted by @hollywood’s Charlie Berens, viewers can get interviews with high-profile celebrities, a behind-the-scenes look into the festival and an in-depth look into The Vaseline Healing Project, which is supporting non-profit, Direct Relief with Emmy-winning actress Viola Davis. The program aims to help heal the skin of five million people living in the wake of crisis and disaster in the U.S. and abroad by 2020.

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.