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Sep 26, 2002
How To

xXx - Zac Eller on Sony's Wireless Ad Campaign That Worked (Yes, in America)

SUMMARY: We can not even type the name here of the movie for which Sony's Zac Eller launched a fabulous wireless campaign, because we are afraid it will set off s*pam filters. Just think cool, hip, 20-something. Wireless advertising for it actually worked.
When you think successful wireless ad campaigns you think Europe and Asia. American wireless advertising is infamously not-ready-for-prime-time.

But wait, maybe that reputation is slightly ill-deserved.

As Director, Media & Promotions at Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment Zac Eller oversees interactive/new media 3rd party partnerships and promotions for many of Sony Pictures Entertainment's divisions including Columbia Pictures, Columbia Tristar Television, and Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment.

We contacted Eller to find out about Sony's first-ever integrated online/wireless promotion for the summer's blockbuster hit "xXx."

-> Why Sony decided to do a wireless campaign:

Sony had done wireless programs with SMS messaging as well as several online promotions but had not combined the two into one massive program. "Before "xXx," the only online component of our wireless campaigns did not go beyond registration," says Eller.

Eller liked the ability to market to people on their cell phones, "wherever they were, we could continually pound home the message that "xXx," was hitting theaters on August 9th.

He admits it had a lot to do with the target audience.

Wireless campaigns cater to teens and college kids, the same demographic for the movie. "We wanted to make "xXx" the must-see summer film for this audience with an interactive program that they could do wherever they were. By tying it to an online component we hoped to drive people back to the web site--not only to see more about the film and to watch the trailer, but to get them really get them involved in the film--to generate more than just awareness for the film but actual interest in the film as well."

-> How the "xXx" campaign worked:

First Sony found a property with the same target audience as the movie. To drive registration, they set up a mini-site on, a website popular among teenagers and college students, a month before the wireless campaign began. Visitors could get information about the film and play interactive games.

Wireless agency Adversoft developed the creative, an "xXx Mobile Agent Training Program." Visitors opted-in for the program by submitting basic registration information like name, email, cell-phone number, etc.

The four-week agent-training program put each player into a spy case all their own. Players were sent clues and questions about the movie on their cell phones. They could get tips and information from the website and enter answers on their phones. Answering the question right moved them on to the next clue.

Correct answers also gave players the chance to get digital downloads like "xXx" ring tones or "xXx" logos for their phone. Players who made it to the end of the program were entered in to win a "xXx" spy package (a bunch of spy-oriented electronic gadgets and gizmos from Sony electronics including digital camcorder, camera, and headphones).

-> How Sony measured and analyzed results:

Raw registration numbers were great. "It was the highest number we've ever had and it is our biggest wireless promotion to date," says Eller. With an interaction rate over 40 percent, "people were really interested in film, the program, and interacting with 'xXx' overall."

Admittedly, it also helps that the movie was a hit. "We definitely saw the program's success when our demo showed up on opening weekend to the tune of $45 million."

-> What types of films does it work best for?

Eller says wireless programs would not work for a family movie because interactive campaigns work best with teens and young adults. "Any movie that has a 13-34 year-old demo is best," says Eller. "You can't go wrong with teen films, urban films and male action movies."

-> What is the cost of this kind of promotion?

"It's all free," Eller starts.

Then he recants, "Well, nothing is free, but it's a bartered promotion. You need the right technology partners who are willing to make money on the back end through the carrier rather than asking for money from the partner."

Eller says a program like this has big incentives for websites. "We had to make a case that was compelling enough for our partners to want to be involved. But a huge factor in a site like CollegeClub doing it for free was to show how successful it was so they might charging in the future."

-> One thing to keep in mind with integrated wireless promotions:

"The content needs to be compelling. If it isn't it doesn't matter how cool the medium is. It won't work if you only invest in the technology. The promotion for "xXx" worked so well because it was both fun and interactive."

FYI, Sony is planning on another integrated campaign for an upcoming fall or winter movie.

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