Winner of the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, and winner of the 2009 Sundance Film Festival’s Audience Award, “The Cove” follows a team of activists and filmmakers as they infiltrate a heavily-guarded cove in Taiji, Japan.
In this remote village, filmmakers witness and document horrific activities hidden from the public as more than 20,000 dolphins and porpoises are slaughtered each year, turning the water red with blood. The meat, containing toxic levels of mercury, is then sold as food in Japan – oftentimes labeled as whale meat.
TakePart, the digital community for Participant Media – the studio behind “An Inconvenient Truth,” “Syriana,” and “Good Night, And Good Luck,” – developed the digital social action campaign for “The Cove.” The film was released in theaters by
TakePart and Participant were seeking a way to keep the gripping experience of the film fresh and relevant in the minds of viewers, and hired San Francisco-based Waterfall Mobile to develop an SMS campaign that would reach potential citizen activists directly.
Waterfall Mobile designed a digital messaging program that engaged viewers at their highest moment of inspiration – the closing credits of “The Cove” – and kept them informed and activated agents of environmental change.
This was the first mobile campaign for TakePart and Participant Media, and a test case for mobile’s viability as a means of stimulating activism.
• Build a mobile subscriber list
• Engage viewers before they leave the theater
• Get people to click through to sign a petition
• Stop the slaughtering of more than 20,000 dolphins and porpoises in Japan
“You don’t usually see short codes
after a film, but people get inspired
after documentaries. We wanted
to get people at the moment of
inspiration, and we think mobile is a
great way to do this.”
– Chris Gebhardt, General Manager, TakePart
The Technology Solution
TakePart and Participant Media selected Waterfall Mobile’s Msgme platform to power the mobile campaign for “The Cove.”
The Msgme platform empowers carriers, brands, agencies and technology companies to manage digital messaging and subscribers across mobile and social channels, including SMS, MMS, mobile apps, voice, Facebook and Twitter. Msgme enhances these channels by coupling seamless integration of mobile web, video, coupons and QR codes, with direct targeting tools such as location, demographic and user preferences.
With help from Waterfall Mobile, TakePart and Participant leveraged the power of Msgme to create a broad-based mobile subscriber list and widely distribute news and information about “The Cove” with ease.
When viewers of the film texted in to the short code (“text DOLPHIN to 44144”) they joined the mobile subscriber list. After opting in to the list, texters were sent a message with a link to sign a petition to shut down “The Cove,” which was later sent to President Obama and the Japanese Ambassador to the U.S., Ichiro Fujisaki.
The mobile subscriber list was then used to keep people engaged with the cause in the race to shut down the cove.
The campaign experienced a remarkable conversion rate during the first weekend of domestic release, with a nine percent opt-in rate of moviegoers texting DOLPHIN to 44144 after seeing the message on screen. This is an unusually high conversion rate for an opt-in program.
Additionally, 29 percent of those who subscribed also clicked through on the reply text to the petition supporting the closing of the cove.
While in theaters, the documentary continued to motivate nearly one in ten activists
to turn on, text in and speak out against the slaughter of dolphins in a Japanese village during its closing credits.
TakePart and Participant Media added tens of thousands of mobile subscribers to its
mobile list from “The Cove”’s first week in theaters through the recent release of the DVD. As more and more people watched the documentary on DVD and heard awards
season buzz, the number of mobile subscribers continued to grow.
Oscar Night & Beyond
On March 7, 2010, “The Cove” won the Oscar for Best Documentary at the 82nd Annual
Academy Awards. When their names were called, the filmmakers brought a sign with
them to the stage that read “Text DOLPHIN to 44144.” “The Cove” subject Ric O’Barry
briefly lifted the sign while director Louie Psihoyos was giving his acceptance speech.
Although the sign was only onscreen for a few seconds before the Oscar telecast
producers cut away, a new phase of the mobile campaign had begun – one that further
demonstrated the unifying power of mobile marketing.
After an initial spike in text-ins to the “Cove” list, new subscriptions grew substantially during the hours after the Oscar telecast. This was due to an impromptu grassroots digital activism campaign that took root on Twitter and other social media platforms.
Seizing on the fact that the Oscar telecast had cut away from the sign – and cut off Mr.Psihoyos’ acceptance speech – citizen activists tweeted and re-tweeted variations on the phrase “Text DOLPHIN to 44144” to spread the message of “The Cove.”
In the days that followed, “Text DOLPHIN to 44144” received tens of thousands of
tweets, retweets, Facebook mentions, blog posts and mainstream media stories. Even
Ellen Degeneres tweeted about it from @TheEllenShow, setting off a new round of
subscriptions from her 4.3MM followers.
Within days of the televised broadcast, subscribers to “The Cove” mobile marketing list had nearly doubled – a +88% increase. Seizing the opportunity, on March 10th, a message was sent to subscribers pointing to Louie Psihoyos’ speech he would have delivered if he had time. Nearly 8% clicked through to watch the YouTube video.
The visibility surrounding “The Cove” has put continued pressure on Japan, and the
Oscar win has brought international scrutiny to the issue.
“The Cove” was the first time TakePart and Participant have so prominently featured
a mobile campaign as an in-theater call-to-action. Since the successful campaign and
amazing feedback, Participant Media plans to use mobile for many of its projects and is currently certifying a dedicated short code.
All goals set for the campaign were successfully achieved.
Waterfall Mobile’s Msgme (www.msgme.com)
• Participant Media added tens of thousands of subscribers to
its mobile list (and it’s still growing ).
• The results proved mobile is a viable platform for Participant
Media, which is now using it for additional projects and is
setting up a dedicated short code.
Contact: [email protected]
About Waterfall Mobile
Waterfall Mobile is the leader in digital messaging and CRM for enterprises. The company’s products, Msgme and AlertU, have revolutionized the way companies manage communications with their end users. The Msgme platform empowers carriers, brands,
agencies and technology companies to manage digital messaging and subscribers across mobile and social channels, including SMS, MMS, mobile apps, voice, Facebook and Twitter. Msgme enhances these channels by coupling seamless integration of
mobile web, video, coupons and QR codes, with direct targeting tools such as location, demographic and user preferences.
Waterfall’s emergency alert notification platform, AlertU, is the industry’s first two-way, multichannel notification system serving as a critical component of the emergency communications infrastructure for over 2 million individuals.
Waterfall’s customers include Anheuser-Busch, Nokia, Ubisoft, Constant Contact, Guthy-Renker, PETA, Roc Nation, WPP, Publicis, Participant Media, and the California Community College system. Backed by Vista Equity Partners, Waterfall is headquartered in San Francisco with offices in New York, Los Angeles and Austin. For more information, please visit www.waterfallmobile.com.
TakePart.com is an independent online community that connects its members directly to the issues that inspire them to engage, contribute and take action. Their team of editors, writers, and researchers curate and deliver actions in context with in-depth primers to the social, environmental, political and cultural issues of our day. www.takepart.com
About Participant Media
Participant Media is a Los Angeles-based entertainment company that focuses on socially relevant, commercially viable feature films, documentaries and television, as well as publishing and digital media. Participant Media is headed by CEO Jim Berk and was founded in 2004 by philanthropist Jeff Skoll, who serves as Chairman. Ricky Strauss is President. Participant exists to tell compelling, entertaining stories that bring to the forefront real issues that shape our lives. For each of its projects, Participant creates extensive social action and advocacy programs which provide ideas and tools to transform the impact of the media experience into individual and community action. Participant’s films include The Kite Runner, Charlie Wilson’s War, Darfur Now, An Inconvenient Truth, Good Night and Good Luck., Syriana, Standard Operating Procedure, The Visitor, The Soloist, Food, Inc. and The Informant! www.participantmedia.com