National Geographic uses smartphones to connect with "generation extinction."
To build awareness for its nature film, The Last Lions, with a new demographic, National Geographic worked with Velti to create a multifaceted mobile marketing campaign that used behavioral targeting to maximize results.
Aside from its entertainment value and beautiful photography, one of the goals of the film was to raise awareness of the perils faced by big cats in the wild, according to Nikki Lowry, director of film marketing and outreach for National Geographic. Her organization is raising money through its Cause an Uproar initiative.
"We quickly figured out mobile had to be one of those efforts for fund-raising," Lowry says. "We felt doing a concentrated mobile campaign would bring an audience we might not normally reach."
The mobile campaign included an iPhone app that let users merge their personal photos with safari scenes from the film. They could unlock new capabilities by sharing these on Facebook.
People could also text for a chance to win a private safari in Botswana; donate to National Geographic's Big Cat Initiative, which aims to restore threatened wild cat populations around the world; watch the movie trailer and browse content on a mobile website; find nearby theaters and purchase tickets; or join a mobile movie fan club.
The target audience for most National Geographic films is the independent feature filmgoer. In addition, the organization wanted to connect with the demographic it refers to as Generation Extinction - 18- to 34-year-olds who could inherit a world in which half the world's species could disappear. People 18 to 34 represent nearly 45 percent of all smartphone users, according to comScore.
For The Last Lions, which premiered in February, National Geographic used the platform release strategy, screening the film first in a few theaters in New York and Los Angeles, and gradually adding other major markets as awareness built.
Velti's mGage mobile marketing platform allowed its client to geotarget mobile users as the film was released into more markets, as well as to track and optimize the campaign's performance.
For example, Velti tested mobile marketing to an older audience, but found that the Generation Extinction segment performed much better. It also tested the different incentives for clicking through from mobile display ads: viewing the trailer, downloading wallpaper, downloading ringtones, and entering the sweepstakes.
Wallpapers were the most effective incentive, something that surprised Lowry.
"As a film marketer, I hadn't had that much experience with mobile marketing," she says. "It was a real learning experience for me to understand the behavior of people and what attracts them. I was flabbergasted that people love wallpapers. There was tons of learning, and there still is."
The mobile campaign drew more than 250,000 visitors to its mobile site, with a three-minute average visit duration, which Velti says is twice the industry average. Twelve percent of sweepstakes entries were from mobile devices, and, following the launch of SMS ticket purchase alerts, traffic to the site increased by 200 percent from the week prior.
Lowry says she's sold on mobile marketing, and for her next campaign, she wants to improve coordination with other marketing channels. For example, TV spots for Last Lions were created far in advance of the release and the decision to use mobile, so they did not call viewers to the mobile app or site.
The campaign will continue to generate a return on investment, thanks to Facebook Likes, SMS numbers and email addresses entered for the sweepstakes. National Geographic plans to use these contacts to promote sales of the DVD when it's released.
"One of our goals was to build a database of people to whom we could reach out to message about the cause and also about other films that we have coming out," Lowry says. That's already paying off: National Geographic is contacting fans about two other films, The First Grader and Life in a Day.
Susan Kuchinskas has covered interactive advertising since its invention. The former staff writer for Adweek, Business 2.0, and M-Business covers technology, business and culture from Berkeley, CA.
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