Branded entertainment has always had roots in film; this campaign used social media to help save the theaters that show those films. Drive-in theaters are an American tradition and a historic part of car culture. But after years of steady decline, the industry was at a major crossroads. By the end of 2013, Hollywood would stop distribution of movies on film, forcing drive-ins to switch to digital projection. The high cost of conversion ($80,000 USD) threatened to put a majority of the fewer than 400 remaining U.S. drive-ins, mostly in small towns, out of business. American Honda recognized this problem, and since one of Honda’s founding values is being a company that society wants to exist, saw an opportunity to help preserve this important part of car culture. So with the help of drive-in owners and supporters nationwide, Honda launched 'Project Drive-In': a movement to save as many drive-ins as possible. Honda donated five digital projectors to the cause, asking America to vote to decide which drive-ins would be saved. The resulting effort was a choreographed use of branded content, digital and social media, and PR to bring national attention to this problem.

EFFECTIVENESS

At the end of 2013, the majority of American drive-in theaters faced closure with Hollywood’s switch from film to digital projection. Upgrading costs over $80,000, which these small businesses cannot afford. Since drive-ins are an iconic part of American car culture, Honda embarked on a partnership with drive-in owners nationwide to bring national attention to this problem.We launched the movement with projectdrivein.com. The dedicated site sheds light on the issue facing drive-ins with a mini-documentary explaining the problem, along with simple ways for people to get involved. Visitors could vote for their local drive-in to receive one of five Honda-donated digital projectors, share the story via Facebook and Twitter, pledge to visit a drive-in and contribute to the 'Save the Drive-in' crowdfund on Indiegogo. Drive-in owners received a unique voting URL and a toolkit with customized posters, flyers, PR how-tos, and digital badges to campaign for votes online and on the ground. We also hosted a nationwide pop-up drive-in tour to bring a drive-in experience to those who didn’t have a drive-in theater near them and we hosted a Twitter Vine auction with film critic Leonard Maltin to get even more contributions. Local news services were the first to pick up the story, expanding to national print and TV news coverage, including NBC Nightly News, USA Today, and Huffington Post. The grassroots stories of outreach and involvement were impressive: a senator posting movement signage outside his office, a local pastor encouraging parishioners to vote, and a local school district making voting for their local drive-in a daily mandatory assignment for every student. To award the projectors, we visited winning drive-in owners, posing as news reporters covering the impending digital conversion. After a few questions, we finally told them they had actually won a digital projector and captured their reactions.

IMPLEMENTATION

Honda led the charge to save the drive-in by donating five digital projectors and launching Project Drive-In, a movement to help #SaveTheDriveIn. Driven by social media advocacy, the campaign used drive-ins’ existing Facebook communities to bring people together in support of saving local drive-ins across the country. Drive-in owners received a digital toolkit to campaign for votes on social media, and projectdrivein.com made spreading the word easy with pre-written social posts, emails, profile photos, and digital badges. To raise awareness and donations, we also hosted a nationwide pop-up drive-in tour, and a Twitter Vine auction with film critic Leonard Maltin.

OUTCOME

Over 126 drive-in owners entered the contest by creating a video and/or photo gallery and a written essay, asking America to vote for their drive-in. To campaign for themselves, drive-in owners used their existing Facebook pages to rally their communities to get out the vote. After 45 days of campaigning, more than 2.6 million votes were cast on projectdrivein.com. The site received over 3.6 million visitors. The cultural impact was immense: driven by social media advocacy and news reports, Project Drive-In garnered over 867 million earned impressions, and more than 379,600 social shares (across blogs, forums, Twitter and news). We had numerous mentions from influential celebrities, such as Wes Craven and Kristen Bell. Even other brands like Cheerios and AutoTrader donated to the cause and over $55,000 was raised on our 'Save the Drive-in' crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. Most important, between Honda-donated projectors, community fundraising and corporate donations, 27 drive-ins have been saved so far and there are reports of even more drive-ins continuing the fundraising effort.