Pre-movie Combat

My girlfriend and I enjoyed a rare outing last night to see a first-run movie. We arrived early enough to get good seats and settle in. Fifteen minutes before the concessions ads before the four previews before the movie we’d come to see, the screen and sound system fired up to show us a First Look. For those people smart enough to go to second-run theatres or watch their movies at home, First Look is a huge, flashy series of commercials. It advertises impending cultural and commercial detritus that the film and television industry thinks the present audience might be interested in. We were treated to trailers for 666 Park Avenue and yet another reimagingng of the rapidly tiring Spiderman story, an embarrassingly odd look at a Blue Lagoon remake for television, several car commercials, an insurance spot, and overly excited enticements for other miscellaneous products.

First Look is particularly annoying for two reasons. Sensorily speaking, the volume is downright rude. My girlfriend and I tried valiantly to share the events of our respective days, but First Look’s sound interrupted with the intensity and persistence of a supremely-caffeinated four-year old. Most annoying, however, was the financial reason. Nevermind the fact that we paid a total of $33.00 for two tickets, a water, and the smallest popcorn available. We nevertheless had to be subjected to a very loud barrage of things to consider spending more money on. I thought the primary incentive of paying for things like applications and television series was supposed to be the minimization of advertising. Instead, it felt like we had paid for the privilege of being begged to pay some more.

So here is my idea for a new smartphone app called Boycott. When you’re at the movie theatre and First Look comes on, you turn Boycott on. Maybe if you buy your tickets with your phone, you could even tell Boycott at that point to turn on automatically later. In any event, the application uses listening identification technology similar to Soundhound or Shazam to figure out what First Look is trying to sell you. First Look is loud enough that Boycott shouldn’t have any trouble hearing, even if your phone is tucked away in your pocket. It stores the vendors as a list of items in a database. After the movie, as you stroll though the real world, Boycott uses GPS location services to know where you are and what’s around you, matching your movements against movie and television listings, and the current time. It persistently compares all of that data against the list of First Look offerings that have been stored. Then Boycott sends you urgent notifications when it thinks you are in jeopardy of consuming anything that First Look showed you. This application could alternately be called ‘Take That, Evil First Look, You Purveyor of Conspicuous Consumerism’ or ‘No Thanks I Already Paid’.

If you have the software engineering skills to make this idea a reality, please feel free. The only compensation I ask is a complimentary copy of Boycott, ad free of course.

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