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Matt Ferrin/Sam Mazur, art directors/writers/creative directors
Marty Cooke, chief creative officer
Brand Experience Lab/David Polinchock, technology directors
Ronit Mevorach, project manager
SS+K, project design and development/ad agency
Catherine Captain/MSNBC.com, clients

"Finally something new and interesting happening at the movie theater. I'd love to see what Steven Spielberg or George Lucas would do with this high-tech, user-generated gadgetry." —juror Gabrielle Weinman

"What a fun and interactive group experience! One hundred times better than ads for popcorn and candy." —juror Bart Marable

Overview: In the summer of 2007 moviegoers were introduced to a new form of branded entertainment: crowd gaming. Based on the online version of the game created for MSNBC.com, it was dubbed NewsBreaker Live and played like Breakout but with human bodies at the controls and RSS-fed headlines from MSNBC.com. A motion sensor detected the collective motion of the audience and a computer with WiFi and a digital projector turned it into a group of human joysticks, working together to capture headlines as they fell from destroyed game bricks. The game transformed the passive waiting for a movie to begin into an unforgettable, interactive experience.

• The game traveled for three months from Los Angeles to Philadelphia to New York and was shown on five screens at a time before summer blockbusters releases.
• After the Los Angeles premiere, a survey of 300 people found that 93 percent of them wanted more games like it.

Comments by Matt Ferrin and Sam Mazur:
Was the topic/subject of the project a new one for you? "We always hope that every advertising idea we ever sell has never been done before within the medium. But, when you create the medium itself, it takes things to an entirely new level. Motion-controlled, cooperative interaction had never been used before as a branded entertainment platform and NewsBreaker Live and its online version were the first RSS-fed news games.

"Doing something that has never been done, with a new technology, in a new environment and a huge audience is a risk. Everything needed to be perfect.

"Cinema audiences are overwhelmed by similar-looking visual clutter. Then, when they get into the theater, they're subjected to boring ads and sponsored trivia that don’t give them any true entertainment value. Yet they are completely captive. We saw it as a huge opportunity. Since the idea of body motion was a new enough concept we decided to keep things simple; we chose a simple and classic game to make it easy for everyone in the audience to understand and participate.

"When you write a great print ad, you don't get to witness a person’s actual response to it. If you make a TV commercial, it's unlikely that you'll ever see someone respond to it. With NewsBreaker Live, we literally saw thousands of strangers jumping out of their seats, laughing and cheering. With some audiences, the electricity in the theater approached the frenzy of a sporting event. As ad people, it was the closest we'd ever gotten to feeling like rock stars."

What was the most challenging aspect of the project? "The project was one part of a small-budget marketing campaign for MSNBC.com—their first ever—and contained paid TV, print and Web advertising supplemented by news-infused digital components. NewsBreaker Live was its riskiest component. Although it had never been done before, we had a hunch that if it worked and we could get the word out, that it would pay-off in spades. For a company with a limited marketing budget that had never done any prior advertising, buying-in to this idea was a leap of faith—a high-risk, high-reward investment."


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