AVTR Coke Zero screengrab

Say what you will about Hollywood’s lack of creativity, but the industry is decidedly innovative when it comes to movie promotion. Take augmented reality, for example. At the AR Immersion 2010 event in Los Angeles, execs rattled off examples of movie and TV studios using augmented reality (AR) to drive ticket sales, video on-demand purchases, and DVD sales at retail.

AR development firm Total Immersion hosted the event. Jason Smith, the company’s manager of pre-sales and product marketing for North America, outlined three ways these movie and TV studios are making AR part of their marketing plans.

•    Let users become their favorite characters

These kinds of apps or campaigns often use facial-tracking technology to create an experience that lets users become a character from the film or TV show. “When the user becomes the star, they’re more likely to share the experience with others,” Smith said.

With I am Iron Man 2, an app developed for Paramount’s Iron Man 2, players got to see what they’d look like as main character Tony Starks. The app let them try on the Iron Man helmet, and even view a dashboard on their screen as if they were looking through the character’s mask.

That “become the star” attraction led to lots of sharing, as the site attracted over 500,000 unique visitors within the first two weeks. Smith said there were over 11,000 videos of users in the mask created and shared with friends.

Other examples include We Are AutoBots for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Behind the Mask, a collaboration between WWE (the wrestling entertainment brand) and the US National Guard.

Behind the Mask AR game

•    Let users enter the world (especially if it’s another planet)

These kinds of apps use more advanced technologies than facial tracking, and as such, can cost more. But the results are even more immersive, as users can interact with one or multiple environments from a film or TV show. 

For Experience the Enterprise, crafted for Paramount’s Star Trek, Total Immersion actually built a full-size model of the starship Enterprise from the film. This made it so that users could have a “real” experience roaming the ship, as opposed to just seeing what they’d look like in a crewmember’s uniform. 

Other examples include Night at the Museum, and of course, Avatar and Coke Zero. In the case of Coke AVTR, the call to action to go to the AR Web site was included at the end of movie trailers, as well as links on 140 million cans.

•    Let users interact with the world

This is one of the most integrated AR experiences in terms of marketing, often implemented as a fully-functional game. Users can “be” the character, “enter” the film or TV show’s environment, and actually interact with objects.

Big Catch is a game Total Immersion created for Discovery’s TV show Deadliest Catch. The game let users collect crab pots from the bottom of a (turbulent) ocean, and then share gameplay images and video with friends.

As for tracking the success of these campaigns, Smith said metrics varied from counting the number of players, to time spent, to returning visitors, to the number of times people shared a video clip of themselves playing. What he declined to say was whether the studios were actually tracking ticket sales or DVD purchases – which would be the best indicator of ROI.