Cineplex Timeplay: Sneaky & Terrible Marketing/Advertising

advertising-marketing-timeplay-cineplexYou probably don’t go to the movies as often as I do. I make it out as much as 50 times a year – once a week. However, even if you don’t go often you have likely heard of Timeplay and perhaps you have already experienced it.

Timeplay, for the uninitiated, is a series of advertisements (not very cleverly) disguised as games that are played on smartphones before the movie starts. When I first heard about it I was very excited. The idea of playing an interactive game with other people in the theatre before a movie is a neat idea. Unfortunately, it turns out that the games are just advertisements with very little fun.

When Timeplay was originally announced Cineplex promised interactive quizzes, much like they already had as a pre-show, but with audience participation and with prizes. Unfortunately, those “prizes” turned out to be promotions from advertisements and the quizzes and other interesting concepts have yet to materialize.

The process to participate in Timeplay is also somewhat cumbersome. You have to first download an app (that is not available for iPhones at this time, pretty ridiculous, really) and then log into a special “Timeplay Wifi” connection in the theatre. You can then launch the app and choose the theatre that you are in to participate. You can then interact with the “games” on screen. One of the games is just a commercial for Ford in which you can influence the next scene in the ad. But the interactivity is severely limited. Instead of a neat “choose your own adventure”, you can simply decide to follow the “guy” or “girl” presented in the ad’s storyline. Nothing remarkable happens.

The other main ad/game is one in which you flick balls onto the screen from your phone to reveal a photo – an advertisement for a new Canon camera feature. Both games have limited interactivity and do little to remove the audience from the ad. The Ford ad has no prize associated with it, while the Canon game offers discounts depending on how the audience performs in the game.

Despite the lame “games” available now, the potential is there. The idea to earn prizes based on performance is great. After the Canon game, for example, you earn a prize – say 10% off – which you can then redeem later with a code that is kept within the app. With a game that is more fun and a smarter promotion, I could see a lot of use from these games.

Have you experienced Timeplay yet? What do you think of the concept/execution?

Update: Timeplay has improved dramatically and I now love it 🙂

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12 thoughts on “Cineplex Timeplay: Sneaky & Terrible Marketing/Advertising

  1. It does sound like it has serious potential. Movie theatres need things like this to work out to keep people showing up.

    1. I agree. Except I would argue that they are (wrongly) focusing on increasing advertising revenue when they should be focused on bringing more people into the theatre. If anything, increasing advertising (even disguised as a game) will turn more people away from the theatre so they’ll make more money in the short-run but no one will advertise if the audience continues to shrink.

  2. Hi there. Thanks for writing this. I was subjected to Timeplay a few weeks ago, after a barrage of the longest, most boring commercials ever, and I couldn’t believe Cineplex would do this
    cruel thing to its customers – customers who’d already bought tickets!!! I wrote to a Cineplex executive, and got a very nice letter back pointing out that at the Varsity I could see movies in the VIP theatres, with no commercials, no Timeline. (Of course those theatres are tiny, and tickets are, I think, $18.99.) The writer (Abi Farhoudi, who holds the embarrassing title “Manager of Guest Experience”), enclosed two tickets for me, which was great. I guess the secret is to go to a movie when it’s not sold out, and hang around the lobby for twenty minutes before going in to avoid the annoyance of Timeplay.

    1. Thanks for sharing that Nancy. Timeplay is very unfortunate, I agree. Very easily avoidable if the movie you are watching is in AVX and you are able to pick your seats – somewhat risky otherwise. Hopefully if they receive enough push back about it they will kill the program.

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  4. I was disappointed to go to a different theater and find they didn’t have it, and it sucks when I’m too late to play.. so I guess it works.
    I do not know how to redeem my prizes of free drinks, however considering I can get the package that includes 1000 points at the snack bar for under $22 and it includes a movie (which btw can be used for Ultramax OR Imax) I wouldn’t likely use it anyway

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