Bats. Bats everywhere.
As creepy as it may sound, Universal Pictures is hoping that giving people the ability to add virtual bats to their cellphone videos will get them talking about the new film "Dracula Untold."
Social-media followers of the film, which arrives in theaters Oct. 10, will be prompted in the coming days to try an iOS app called Vivoom. Fans film a short scene, and the app then layers in the same digitally created bats seen in "Dracula" along with a banner for the movie at both ends. The bet is that the cool effect gets users to share that video on social media, expanding the number of people who hear about "Dracula."
FOR THE RECORD
11:59 p.m.: A previous version of this post said 17% of the people who saw In The Pink campaign videos started following the retailer on social media. The chain actually saw a 17% increase in the number of social media followers in the four-week run.
Vivoom, a Cambridge, Mass., start-up, calls it advertising in user-generated content. For the movie studio, it's the latest technology experiment aimed at remaining relevant among the YouTube generation.
"The internal research and polls that we use shows that the higher the amount of organic conversation online about a movie, the better return there will be at the box office," said Doug Neil, Universal's executive vice president for digital marketing. "This is a concept we thought would be good to try expanding our presence on mobile."
Universal has also been tapping Los Angeles start-up Talenthouse to help market "Dracula Untold." And the studio is using Snapchat to generate buzz about the May 2015 release of "Pitch Perfect 2."
Katherine Hays, chief executive of Vivoom, said the idea to turn the firm's visual-effects app into an advertising generator came about nine months ago when she saw that advertisers remained skittish about advertising alongside user-generated content even though millennials were spending so much time creating and consuming it.
In a four-week run with clothing retailer In The Pink, Hays said the New England chain saw a 17% increase in the number of social media followers combined on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. About 3% of the viewers redeemed a coupon offered to them post-view.
Such response rates "are off the charts," Hays said, "because it's the brands' best fans creating their own content in the right moment."
A campaign with YouTube personality Jennxpenn, part of the AwesomenessTV network, led about 3.4% of the 376,000 people who saw the video explaining Vivoom to participate, Hays said. Once those fans created videos, the reach of the campaign extended to 2.1 million people, she said.
Why would users want to create these videos? Hays said the authentic effects, visuals and music provide enough value, plus Vivoom-treated videos receive as much as 60% more "likes/favorites" on social media than the original, raw version, according to Vivoom's testing.
The start-up was spun out of special-effects software powerhouse GenArts, whose clients include LucasFilm, MTV, Fox and dozens of other studios and networks.
One of Vivoom's investors is Insight Venture Partners, which has backed Tumblr, Flipboard, Twitter and other companies. A former media-stock analyst for Goldman Sachs, Hays also was chief operating officer and chief financial officer of a start-up called Massive Inc. It developed technology to place ads in video games and was sold to Xbox maker Microsoft Corp. in 2006.