I recently went to see the Neil LaBute play Reasons to be Pretty at the Lyceum Theatre.
As curtain time approached the usual announcements were made. "Welcome to the Lyceum," "Please take your seats, the show will begin shortly."
And "Please take a minute to turn on your mobile phones."
Instructions were read aloud and provided as an insert in our Playbill:
"At Reasons to Be Pretty we're temporarily breaking with tradition! Take your phones out. That's right, get your phones out and on. We'd like your help with a little social experiment. We want to know how attractive you think you are... and how you think your fellow theatre-goers measure up in comparison. To participate, text the word PRETTY to 42903. After you cast your vote, turn off your phones, put them away and enjoy Reasons to Be Pretty. We'll text you the results at the intermission."
I followed the instructions. Rated myself and some lady sitting a couple aisles away (6 and 5 respectively if you must know). At intermission everyone received a text with the results. On that evening the average self rating was 6.6. The average stranger rating was 5.1, a difference of 22%.
The theatre seats 922 people. Every night the results are remarkably consistent, but not terribly surprising (you've probably heard a lot of talk about the wisdom of crowds, about how on average people tend to rate themselves above average on smarts and looks).
What is different about this is how it added a bit of fun to the experience. It literally set the stage for the play to follow, which is all about judging looks of one another.
But it was also a smart marketing idea. Two weeks later I received a text telling me to visit a site for details about a buy one get one free Monday Night Date Night ticket offer. So ultimately everyone wins. I think that may be the first time I have actually welcomed a text offer to my mobile.
This kind of thing is a great example of how some have started to think about relationships: Provide an experience made better through participation.
Faris Yakob recently gave a presentation that touches on this. In it he has a quote from Henry Jenkins of MIT:
"Our focus should be not on emerging technologies but on emerging cultural practices."
So to me this example is really less about a well executed mobile tactic but more about how open people are to finding new meaning (i.e. what people sitting around me think about beauty) in timeless forms (i.e. sitting in a theater and watching real actors).