KITCHENER — Coming soon to the men's washroom near you — the urinal wars.
There are pubs in England where patrons relieve their beer-bloated bladders in urinals equipped with sensors that measure the volume and intensity of the waste stream. The rankings are posted on digital displays in the bar. Competition develops and sales soar.
"They noticed the beer sales went up 38 per cent," said Laura Shaw, creative director at Cineplex Digital Solutions in Waterloo.
"All the men in the pubs were getting rather competitive, whether they were ranked or not, because there was a leader board in the pub: Who was winning the urinal games," Shaw said.
Shaw was speaking at a conference Friday in the Tannery building in downtown Kitchener about a rapidly growing and changing area of digital marketing called social-local-mobile, or SoLoMo in the lingo of marketers.
When Cineplex heard about the urinal wars in those English pubs, it wanted to develop some kind of digital game for urinals in its movie multiplexes.
"The beers sales going up attracted a lot of people, so Cineplex is like: "Why not? Let's do it,'" Shaw said. "Some of the conversations in the boardroom were about 'it will be a revenue stream,' a 'golden opportunity.'"
Social-local-mobile marketing is all about using smartphones, tablets and digital displays as billboards to increase sales, engage customers and build brands with comments from happy customers.
Shaw is a leader in the field. She oversees a team of 45 people working out of offices on Northfield Drive in Waterloo.
Cineplex established a presence in Waterloo in 2010 when it acquired Digital Display & Communications, a digital signage business that employed 12 people at the time. The name changed to Cineplex Digital Solutions.
That Waterloo team is responsible for the pre-show games people play on their smartphones in theatres, the ticketing kiosks in lobbies and the digital-interactive displays.
Shaw noted that Cineplex doesn't make money on showing movies at its 162 theatres, but on sale of popcorn, pop and fast food, and digital games in the lobby.
The firm also creates digital art displays, interactive screens and ever-changing content for the walls of office lobbies, banks, airports and malls. To help drive shoppers to a food court, it developed a touch screen where people could print coupons that offered $2 off food.
"Our motto is: we want to revolutionize digital experiences where people work, shop and play," Shaw said.
Mad Hatter also shared its experience with social-local-mobile.
Melanie Witzell, agency director at the Kitchener firm, talked about its new app, átoi, which helps shoppers in New York, Miami and Los Angeles find the locations of pop-up stores that sell samples of haute couture shoes and clothing.
New York City attracts more than one million tourists a week, including many women eager to find Jimmy Choo shoes, handbags and accessories on the cheap. The Mad Hatter app is aimed at them.
Witzell said the firm is aiming for one million users within three years, and plans to expand the app to other centres.
Nicole Stuber, a social media and digital engagement specialist at Mad Hatter, talked about an incredibly successful social-local-mobile app developed for Charmin. For boomers who recall the toilet paper company's television ads featuring the line "please don't squeeze the Charmin," the new app is a stunning reminder of how much and how fast marketing is changing.
Charmin's app is called "Sit or Squat." Users post locations, photos and comments about nice, clean washrooms in public places. These are places where users liked to "sit." If the washroom is dirty or dingy, they hit the "squat" tag. The tag for the campaign is: "The next time you have to go on the go, know where to go."
Stuber said the social media campaign has attracted 964,970 likes on Facebook and 68,000 followers on Twitter. "Basically mobile marketing is always on," she said.