How do you market a film these days? Billboards, newspapers and TV channels are everywhere. But none of them are right in front of your face all day; you don’t constantly check them. The same is not true of your mobile. It’s your most personal device, your conduit to the outside world. It’s a marketer’s dream location.
And the best way to get that promotion on people’s phones? Make them want to install it themselves. I’m going to look at two movie tie-in iPhone apps have been released recently: The Unborn and Watchmen. Just how well do they deliver, for the film studios and for the consumer?
Both of these apps are free, and have similar sorts of content.
Following an explanatory splash screen, the focus is the main character (“Casey” – Odette Yustman), standing in front of a mirror. There’s a bit of finger-tapping involved as you try to figure out what you should click on – but the visual cues are obvious enough, e.g. a cockroach, a bar of soap, a highlighted tile. The unborn twin is the principal trigger point, and there are nice touches like cracks and condensation appearing on the mirror after watching the trailer.
Content available includes:
- a (text) interview with the script writer
- a synopsis
- a spooky simulated “unknown call”
It fits the genre, with a dark feel. Importantly, it doesn’t need connectivity to work, so you can use the app anywhere.
This app has a head start, as there are already superb visuals to work with from the graphic novel. Its main screen features Ozymandias watching a bank of TVs – one of the recurring points in the graphic novel – and is scrollable. Clicking on those TVs releases further content, and when you return to the main screen, more TVs are available to click. It’s a nice interface, and in keeping with the source material.
Content available includes:
- “motion comics” that were developed from the original novel
- photos, which are savable to the Photo Library
- character profiles
- fake ads for Veidt products
- video journals
- links which open up Safari
It’s full of content, and really well done. Most of it also doesn’t need connectivity.
The future of marketing and more?
Clearly, film studios want closer customer engagement. Marketing to your mobile is about as direct as they will get. But they have to make it worth our while. These apps will need to offer a genuinely interesting glimpse into the movie to come; and even so, they are likely to only have a short lifespan on our devices.
Content anywhere – not dependent on connectivity – is important. If I’m stuck in a mobile dead zone, and this promo app gives me nothing, it will be binned shortly afterwards.
You don’t see these sorts of apps on other mobile platforms – it’s only on the iPhone at the moment. And they are a test bed for a future mobile push, not just for marketing. They may just be interactive mobile billboards for now, but that won’t last long.
The Watchmen app also advertises that the Watchmen motion comics are available on the iTunes Store; no links though, as you can’t buy them direct on the iPhone. But these apps could become specialised distribution channels.
Could Universal enable sales of a movie, through an app such as The Unborn? Even if it’s just a link to iTunes, knowing you could also download the movie could be a powerful incentive to download the app in the first place. Especially if the industrry moves to downloads on the same day it’s released to the cinema.
And it doesn’t need to be confined to theatrical releases. If Sci-Fi had released a compelling Battlestar Galatica app, for example, with unique content – perhaps a full, regularly updating version of the Battlestar Wiki, and the ability to buy episodes straight from my iPhone… Well, I probably would have spent a lot of money with them by now.
The apps I’ve looked at provide enough interest for now, but there is much more to come.