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Universal Pictures Uses iPhone “Interactive Movie Trailer” To Launch New Film


For the launch of their new horror film “The Unborn”, Universal Pictures has turned to mobile as a great way to communicate with their target audience, and to provide them with entertaining content they can enjoy no matter where they go.

Film companies have built up a great expertise in the use of billboards and posters to promote films. The design methodology that goes into creating a billboard poster is built on how the consumer will read the imagery to ‘buy in’ to the film bring promoted. This iPhone app builds on this experience to give users a new, yet familiar way to relate to the film.

Hidden Content

The application is based around the main image shown above – this acts as the primary interface into the various parts of the application. Most of the features are in fact hidden, you need to discover them in the image.

The app uses some of the nice iPhone features to make it more interesting and engaging. For example,


  • if you tilt the phone when the main image is showing, the girl slides a bit to the left or right, which exposes more of the mirror.
  • Look closely at the left side of the mirror, and you’ll see that it looks misty, or fogged up. If you ‘wipe’ that portion of the screen with your finger, it looks like you are clearing off the mist, and an image of the boy’s face appears behind it. If you then click there, it launches the trailer.
  • Clicking twice on the screen enlarges the picture, and lets you see more clearly certain important details. For example, there is the image of a spider crawling up the wall – if you touch it you go to a section with “Production Notes” about the film. Another image clue shows you additional film footage that is not in the trailer.


The feature I like the best is the fake phone call. When you close the application, sometimes it makes the iPhone ring and an almost standard incoming call screen. The first time you see this you think it is a real call, but if you press the answer button, the haunted voice from the film starts talking to you. Very surprising!

Why an iPhone Application?

The Unborn application was a a joint project of Universal Pictures, Hyperhappen, and Golden Gekko. It is available for download free from the iPhone store.

unborn_call.gifNeil Wirasinha, Director of International Advertising & Media at Universal Pictures International said, “The real key is to connect appropriately with all of our audiences. The Unborn is a great genre movie that ties very well with the 16 to 34 demographic. We spend a lot of time looking at the media habits of these consumers, and the iPhone is an important screen for us.”

“The app gives people an insight into what the movie is like. This is primarily through the trailer, which is the usually the strongest part of a movie marketing package. And the iPhone is an excellent carriage for that,” he continued.

Rupert Ashwell, Head of Mobile at agency Hyper Happen explained, “we decided to make an application because the experience is richer than with WAP pages, and you don’t need to be connected. This is actually about people consuming media on a mobile device – regardless of where they go, you still want to reach out to this audience.”

According to Magnus Jern, CEO of development company Golden Gekko, this application took about 2 weeks to build, and then an additional 3 weeks to be approved for inclusion in the Apple Apps Store. One of the main reasons the development was so quick was that it utilized mostly existing media assets from Universal.

Beginning of a trend

Although this is a relatively simple application, it is a great opportunity to put an entertaining experience into the hands of the audience. And because is it a downloaded application, it does not require network access to run, and can therefore be enjoyed and shared with friends where ever the consumer might be. Universal says that they intend to continue this kind of marketing, and we can expect to see more movie launch apps in the future.

Finally, here is the trailer for “The Unborn” that is shown on the iPhone.

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