Sony Pictures’ The Emoji Movie, that supposedly epic “app-adventure” unfolding in a micro metropolis dubbed “Textopolis,” and using your average smartphone as a backdrop universe, is headed towards a theater near you this week. Meanwhile, The Emoji Movie’s characters, voiced by the likes of T.J. Miller, James Corden, Steven Wright and several others, are popping up on Ocean’s Eat Street digital screen at the main entrance to the affluent Westfield London shopping plaza, which sees about 28 million customers each year spending an average dwell time of 103 minutes per visit perusing popular restaurants, bars and shops on the way towards public transport hubs.
“The activity at Westfield is a great example of how we can do this in a fun and engaging way while simultaneously delivering entertainment to families during the holidays,” said Sony Pictures Releasing International Marketing Director Stuart Williams.
Now, one may question the necessity for a movie that’s protagonists, by nature, simplify the complex spectrum of human emotions down to a handful of digital icons aimed at abbreviating daily communication exchanges in the first place. One may also wonder why a seasoned and professional thespian like Sir Patrick Stewart was tapped to help bring life to the Poop emoji of all things, but those are admittedly unrelated issues. Our focus here and now is on this particularly effective arm of the film’s marketing campaign and why it deserves our Installation of the Week stamp of approval.
The #EmojiMovie campaign on Ocean’s Eat Street Screen is notable primarily for its smart use of a bustling location to exploit young out-and-about families as well as the added dimension of employing the screen’s built-in LookOut facial detection technology. This capability allows for “augmented reality” by tracking when onlookers are staring at the screen and superimposing emojis over their faces. But here’s the kicker: The facial detection technology doesn’t just recognize that a human mug is lingering somewhere nearby. It also acknowledges gender and mood before using that information in selecting an appropriate emoji character to replace your face. This will undoubtedly amuse at least one member of your family or viewing party a lot more than the rest. Check out the video below for a demonstration of the Ocean Eat Street Screen in action:
“This campaign is a great example of how LookOut technology can be used to create a fun and passive interaction that can be enjoyed by multiple participants at the same time,” said Head of Ocean Labs Catherine Morgan. “Ocean’s pedestrian-based large-format screens are AR ready, offering this kind of immersive interactive experience as a scalable solution.”
The Ocean Labs team likes to lead with its products’ connectivity and locational placement, and those aspects are certainly relevant here. However, what elevates this particular campaign beyond mere pandering is its ability to reflect the demeanor of the onlooker. As stated above, the screen is basically branding a viewer, albeit temporarily, with a label based on facial expression.
This may give pause to more than one curmudgeonly shopper who gets emblazoned with an unflattering emoji, but it also invites all kinds of precious questions about the nature and purpose of arts and entertainment in general. Are animated kids’ movies like this supposed to offer all ages a two-hour window of escape or something more? Does real and lasting art necessarily have to make us think deeply about the human condition and reflect on the light and dark parts of ourselves? Regardless, I’m willing to bet that this interactive screen campaign at Westfield London offers a better chance at the latter than The Emoji Movie itself.
Nonetheless, The Emoji Movie officially opens on August 4, 2017, and this corresponding interactive screen deployment runs in the lunchtime slot from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. daily for the rest of the week.