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Showtime to give tarot card readings to SXSW app users

Showtime will be promoting its new series "Penny Dreadful" by offering South by Southwest attendees a unique mobile experience that ties into Foursquare and Twitter.

Showtime is the premiere sponsor of the SXSW Go app, and the company is integrating a creative tarot card reading feature that will identify trending bars, restaurants and popular sessions around SXSW. This taps into one of the themes from the upcoming show and will be accessible via banners in the app?s Schedule and News and Information sections.

?As part of the sponsorship of SXSW app we wanted to actually present content and add some functionality to the app rather than just do a traditional banner promotion for program campaign,? said Ken Todd, vice president of digital content syndication and mobile development at Showtime Networks, New York.

?As we were thinking about different ways we could do that, one of the things we came up with was people want to know what?s going on and also you have the situation where the schedule is a little overwhelming and sometimes it can be hard to figure out where you want to go next,? he said. ?So we figured out how to pull in data that exists to provide value for users.

"The concept is to have a banner that says something along the lines of, 'Not sure what to do next? Let the cards decide,' and then it takes you to our tarot experience, and obviously there?s a fun component to it as well, which we thought was important, and then it presents you with a reading based on the cards you pull. We thought that was a fun way to present trending data.?

Let the cards decide
SXSW participants can download the SXSW Go app on an iPhone, iPad or Android device. Then they can access the tarot card reading by clicking on a banner in the Schedule or News and Information sections of the app.

Users will then see Penny Dreadful tarot cards and be instructed to choose three cards. The cards will flip and reveal a reading that shows various trending activities at SXSW.

Depending on which cards the user selects, the app will suggest immediately upcoming sessions from a range of themes, top trending locations, restaurants and bars in real time and references to currently trending topics on Twitter.

For instance, if a user selects the ?The Fool?, ?Strength? and ?Wheel of Fortune? cards, he will receive the following message:

?The Fool indicates spontaneity and fearlessness in your past, perhaps the reason you came to SXSW? But the reversed Strength suggests current weakness and inertia. The Wheel of Fortune is an excellent sign of impending good luck and the beginning of a new cycle. You need sustenance to meet your destiny.?

The app will then display top trending restaurants at SXSW. The trending data will be obtained by aggregating real-time data from the SXSW schedule along with Foursquare and Twitter.

Additionally, Showtime has hidden exclusive content from Penny Dreadful within the tarot card experience depending on which cards users select. Select users will find an Easter egg that lets them view an exclusive clip from the first episode of Penny Dreadful.

Consumers who are not at SXSW will also be able to access the tarot cards online through a site that will launch prior to the festival.

Penny Dreadful
Showtime integrated trending data into the SXSW Go app last year as well, but this is the first time it is tying in an interactive experience around a show. Beyond the app feature, Showtime is promoting Penny Dreadful in a number of different ways during the festival.

All of the promotions surround the tarot card theme since one of the show?s characters uses tarot cards to do readings.

SXSW attendees will be able to download a ?Penny Dreadful Fan Pass" through Apple's Passbook or Google Wallet to get access to exclusive video content and other series updates. Throughout the season Showtime will send messaging and notifications to the digital wallets to keep consumers engaged with the show.

There will be a link to download the fan pass within the tarot card reading experience.

Showtime is also hosting an advance viewing of the first episode of Penny Dreadful on the Sunday of SXSW.

Additional, Showtime is sponsoring shuttle buses at the festival which will display Penny Dreadful art.

?There were a couple different objectives,? Mr. Todd said. ?One, we wanted to provide utility about what?s going on at SXSW.

?And two it should be entertaining so you?ll want to do it more than once throughout the festival,? he said. ?The utility component of it was important.

?In this experience, we?re trying to provide utility with the entertaining aspect but didn?t want to overwhelm it with promotion for the program itself so we?re trying to find a balance there.?

Final Take
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York