Be it the drinking songs of long ago or the contests and live entertainment of more recent decades, getting the attention and participation of everyone in the room — rather than in separate cliques — is often what ties them to a specific venue and gets them to stick around. Without such group activities, small cliques may decide to have their next drink elsewhere.

Today, text-to-screen is the interactive tool that has patrons talking — or rather NOT talking — as they text anonymously. Sucking patrons into a group discussion is big fun for them and bolsters their length of stay.

Made You Look

For two nights in early 2008, Sha Keb Consultancy LLC, a Mather, Calif.-based mobile marketing strategies firm, conducted a study at the Blue Cue in Sacramento, Calif. — a restaurant, bar and billiards venue with a Nielsen DMA ranking of 20th in the United States — to find out how text-to-screen technology affects the crowd dynamic.

The first night, patrons were polled on what team they thought would win the NCAA Final Four. As the patrons sent their picks via text messages, screens showed the results in real time. The second night, a bar employee took pictures of patrons and sent them to the screen via multimedia messages, and patrons texted comments to the screen.

“With the implementation of text-to-screen, it was very interesting to see how the screen acted as a centerpiece for conversation,” Sha Keb managing member Shakeb Kundiwala says. “Curiosity became the ice breaker for many patrons to start engaging with other patrons, as well as with the staff. This had a viral effect as one person would text to the screen and others would follow to respond.”

The study found 35 percent of the participants spent some time glancing at the screen, while 54 percent spent 15 minutes looking at the screen; 46 percent spent more than 15 minutes looking at the screen.

The study revealed that viewers have a natural tendency to interact with the screen, and the interactive aspect with the signage significantly increases the number of times viewers look at the screen, according to Kundiwala. Further, this interaction can initiate consumer brand dialog during which the operator can send promotional messages to the screen and to patrons’ phones. The dialog can be tracked and stored for future communication, and the interactivity can generate meaningful measurement data for networks and brands.

For this study, Sha Keb Consultancy used applications by Silicon Valley digital signage BlueFire Digital. More details of the study are available here.

By Request

Today’s younger legal-drinking-age adult is more likely to send a text to a friend than walk a short distance to speak in person. It’s a phenomenon not lost on Bill Spieler, owner of DC9 in Washington, D.C., who has been using text-to-screen technology since May 2008.

At DC9, where Spieler uses FireText applications, text-to-screen isn’t just for on-screen flirting or voting in interactive polls. “It seems like whenever you go into a club, you see people texting constantly — even to people who are just in another room,” Spieler says. “Our Friday night dance party has always had song requests. Previously we took requests verbally and on a clipboard. You could certainly walk over to the DJ booth to make your request, but knowing how people operate now, I thought it would be fun to see people on the dance floor making requests. Most of the usage of the program is sending requests to the DJ.”

It’s a safe bet that the guest who doesn’t miss a beat dancing while submitting her request is probably going to hang out for a good while. And isn’t that the operator’s main request?