Moviegoers lend text support to 'The Cove'

Participant dives in to digital activism for dolphin film

The Cove -- Film Review

Despite movie theaters' persistent messages to "turn off your cell phones" when films begin, one documentary is motivating nearly 1 in 10 activists to turn on, text in and speak out against the clandestine slaughter of dolphins in a Japanese village during its closing credits.

That movie is "The Cove," the 2009 Sundance Film Festival's Audience Award winner that was released domestically by Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions this summer. Participant Media handled "The Cove's" social action campaign, and hired San Francisco-based Waterfall Mobile to create the text program with its Msgme, a simple messaging platform that works across all mobile phones.

"You don't usually see short codes after a film, but people get inspired after documentaries," explained Patrick J. Kearney, vp technology and platforms for Participant Media. "We wanted to get people at the moment of inspiration, and we think mobile is a great way to do this."

According to Participant's data, 9% of moviegoers texted "DOLPHIN" to 44144 after seeing the message onscreen, which is an unusually high conversion rate for an opt-in program. Additionally, 22% of those who texted also signed a petition supporting the closing of the Cove, which is being forwarded to President Barack Obama and the Japanese ambassador to the U.S., Ichiro Fujisaki.

The "Cove" campaign is the first foray into digital activism for Participant, which also produced "An Inconvenient Truth," "Syriana" and "Food, Inc."

"With 'An Inconvenient Truth,' there were a lot of actions people could take," said Kearney, who noted that moviegoers must have been incensed if they turned their phones back on to protest. "With this, we wanted to shut the Cove down. It was a very binary type campaign."