Toronto-based TimePlay has expanded its collaboration with Canada’s largest cinema and entertainment company, Cineplex, to 725 theatres across all 10 provinces. Since 2011, the company has been piloting its interactive advertising platform in Toronto and Vancouver, increasing from just over 100 screens to, most recently, 231.
“Consumers want to participate in their entertainment,” said Jon Hussman, President and CEO of TimePlay. “Traditionally, the pre-cinema show has been pretty unengaging. We’re trying to leverage smart devices to make it more so.” The company, which is mainly known for facilitating pre-movie trivia and interactive games over WiFi, has seen enormous engagement by consumers, and tremendous interest by advertisers, who claim a significant jump in brand awareness from the venture.
TimePlay has also engaged in pilots with sports venues such as Toronto’s Real Sports Bar, owned by MLSE, during timeouts and in between quarters. The rewards-based system “caters to enthusiasts in their own environment,” which allows advertisers to create content that people actually want to watch. Users are typically rewarded loyalty points, as with Cineplex’s Scene program, or small gifts like free drinks or discounted concessions.
The company is expanding to new markets this year, and though Hussman won’t divulge details, it’s clear the United States is a market prime for disruption in this area. “We want to start moving the needle on the content side. Until now, we’re mainly been investing in the platform,” referring to the backend that is currently going through an overhaul to support profiles and markets outside the theatre world.
“Canada has been a great market for us,” he said, “largely because it’s our backyard, but also because the proliferation of smartphones is an advantage.” The target market TimePlay’s advertisers covet, the 18-45 year olds, are largely smartphone addicts, made up primarily of Android and iOS devices.
“We expect Android to surpass iOS this year,” he said, though the latter still generates more interaction. “It’s slightly more difficult to develop for, but we’re well equipped to deal with all platforms.” Hussman also promises a Windows Phone version of the app later this year to complement the iOS, Android and BlackBerry versions already available.
As for the content, “it’s in its early days,” he said. “It’s time for experimenting, risk-taking.” Brands and consumers seem to be adjusting well to the addition of TimePlay in their cinema experience, and the company is primed to expand into even more markets this year. The company boasts four million plays and 1.5 million downloads across its three platforms since late 2011, and the addition of Windows Phone, and the promise of better content will almost certainly increase that exposure.