Entertainment , Marketing , Augmented Reality

Movie Marketing: Evolution of Film Promotions & Augmented Reality Campaigns

With the rise of immersive tech like augmented reality, movie marketing is now more engaging than ever. Take a look at some latest immersive movie campaigns.

With the advent of the modern consumer society, the ability to sell mass-produced items became integral to businesses in the 21st century. As a result, the art of marketing, which consists of creating advertisements that encourage people to buy specific products was developed.  The film industry which was developed during the 1910s and 1920s, also used marketing to sell their films to as many people as possible. As production costs began to rise, marketing became a core feature of the movie business, and has been that way since.

In the early 2000s, most members of the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) spent an average of $50 million to produce a film, and about $30 million to market it. A decade later, most prominent Hollywood studios spent a whopping $3.6 billion on average just to advertise their films. 

However, the methdos of film promotions have continued to evolve with advancement in technology. Initially, the only mediums of advertising were TV, Radio, & Print. With the growth of the internet, digital advertising has grown to occupy a prominent space in the arsenal of production studios. Now, we are witnessing a new era of entertainment marketing where studios are experimenting with latest technologies to offer a unique experience to movie buffs.

In the past two years, we have witnessed a rise of innovative movie marketing campaigns that are different from the conventional marketing strategies used by the studios. These campaigns have extensively implemented advancements in immersive technologies like virtual reality & augmented reality.

But, why did the need for such campaigns arise on the first place?

Let's look at some of the shortcoming of traditional film promotion strategies:

Why Conventional Movie Marketing No Longer Works

Cinema is a complex cultural industry and the challenge facing film marketers is rather tricky. People may need to go to the movies from time to time to have fun or to forget their worries, but the average cinema goer rarely ever seeks out a particular movie to watch. As a result, movie producers and marketers must create an entire experience - one that drives the desire to see a film whose ephemeral value - or lack thereof - is known only after being watched.

Film marketers essentially, therefore, must deliver to the right crowd, in the most appropriate manner and in a short period of time, both a product that is both commercially viable and the result of a historical, social and national context, while positioning themselves in relation to the competitors. The challenge is even greater for independently produced films that, unlike many studio blockbusters, are generally unheard of until and after they are released.

The trickiest part of movie marketing is that every movie is different. Each film is its standalone product with its own potential market segment. There is no standard recipe for success. Movie marketers must therefore resort to highly creative means in order to attract the attention of the public.

Filmmaking is a risky business by nature. Most producers today try to mitigate some of this risk by promoting expensive movies. Unfortunately, they make movies even more expensive by attaching huge marketing budgets. There is always a chance that the marketing campaign will be just as bad if not more than the movie itself.

Under such circumstances, most studios are likely to have thrown away twice as much money that they otherwise would have. Oliver Stone's 2004 epic, ‘Alexander’, for example, cost $155 million and about $60 million to market but grossed only $167 million worldwide. 

The problem is that most big-budget movies are sold to the widest possible audiences. Advertisements are placed on all television networks, newspapers, and magazines. There is no segmentation under such circumstances. Chances are that with every successful movie marketing campaign, millions of dollars will be lost, owing to the millions of people who are never going to see the film, no matter how good it is touted to be.

Finally, moviegoers are way more media-savvy than they have ever been before. While children are predisposed to advertising, most adults recognize advertising campaigns for what they are - mundane marketing! So much so, that even the staunchest of move-aficionados have begun complaining about the unattributed hype surrounding most major studio releases.

The above reasons has led studios to come up with innovative campaigns that can truly engage the viewers and build the hype around their movie release in the most effective manner. They have begun to extensively use the new trends in augmented reality and virtual reality especially with major social media platforms offering these functionality within their platform. 

Take a look at some of the recent trends that are shaping the film promotions in the 21st century.

3 Movie Marketing Trends That Are Hot Favorite

  1. Interactive Film Posters

Gone are the days when movie posters were static and offered no interactivity. While the classic charm and mysterious of a print poster cannot be taken away, you can surely bridge the gap and allow viewers to experience the poster in a completely different way. With augmented reality, interactive movie posters have become quite popular among audiences, thanks to these examples: 

  • a) AMC Theaters

    AMC Theaters came up with a mobile application that could enhance the cinematic experience for a moviegoer, via an augmented reality feature built into it. The movie theater chain updated its iPhone application to allow movie buffs to scan film posters, thus enabling them to learn more about the movie and then proceed to buy tickets.
  • By accessing the augmented reality feature in the application, users first were given an explanation of how the technology worked (with movie posters that were compatible with their respective mobile devices). The posters had an augmented reality symbol at the top to indicate that the content was digitizable.
  • Upon the poster getting recognized by the app, consumers could then proceed to watch the movie trailer or purchase tickets. If tickets weren’t yet available at that particular point, they had the option of choosing to save the movie to their 'to watch' list and then wait to receive an alert once tickets for the movie were back on sale.


Source: Ytimg

AMC Theaters also launched an Augmented Reality Contest within the posters to help commercialize the app. When consumers scanned a movie poster, a call to action button allowing them to fill out a form and sign up to receive SMS coupons from the movie channel, appeared.

To promote the new feature of the app, AMC relied on in-theater signage and videos connected to the contest. Posters and calls to action during pre-broadcasts invited users to download the application to try and win free tickets. In addition to augmented reality, the app also allowed consumers to find nearby theaters, check out movie schedules and read audience reviews.

AMC Theaters made great use of the fact that movie buffs are always interested in any and all material presented at the venue. They made use of augmented reality in a great way to broadcast bonus content to this engaged demographic. This was a perfect example of how even movie theater chains were willing to adopt the latest technologies to increase awareness of future movies to be screened at their theaters.

Take a look at this ‘How To’ Video released by AMC:


b) A Wrinkle In Time and Ready Player One

Both films were part of Facebook's initial tests on its AR Target Tracker project and involved posters outfitted with this technology being placed at bus stops as well as other outdoor locations 

For ‘A Wrinkle In Time’, scanning posters for the movie resulted in awe-inspiring and reality-shifting effects , similar to those seen in the movie. 


Source: Micro.Medium

Whereas for ‘Ready Player One’, scanning posters for the movie resulted in a portal being opened to OASIS, a virtual world in which the story unfolds.

Check out how Facebook’s Target AR functionality was employed in promoting Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One

2. Interactive Mobile Apps and Themed Mobile Games

For big-budget movies, especially around superheroes, studios come up with the standalone movie apps and mobile games to generate the buzz around the release and get the viewers familiar with the characters. Here are few of such examples: 

a) Deadpool 2

The makers of 'Deadpool' tied up with 7-Eleven for the promotion of 'Deadpool 2'. Customers of 7-Eleven across the globe, could open the store’s app and get a guided tour of an AR version of Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) himself. Scannable codes spread across stores would also help in unlocking exclusive content and reward points that could be used for rebates on future purchases.


Source: Cdn3.movieweb

Deadpool fans going around their local 7-Eleven, scanning Deadpool stickers and collecting reward points.

  • b) Solo: A Star Wars Story

An AR version of 'Dejarik' or ‘Holochess’ (the fictional ‘Star Wars’ game) was added to Lenovo's popular 'Jedi Challenges' mobile game. The original version of the game required special AR glasses, but an ARKit-assisted update that arrived much after the game’s release meant that one could play it on an iPhone or iPad without the need for any additional AR equipment. 


Source: Gadgetreviwed

3. Interactive Kiosks


BTL movie marketing campaigns have always been effective in attracting a huge number of crowds. With interactive kiosks powered by sensors and immersive experience, movie studios have found another way to promote their films. Take a look at some of the examples of promotional campaigns: 

  • a) Edge of Tomorrow

Warner Bros ran an innovative AR campaign in the Netherlands and Spain to promote its 2014 film - 'Edge of Tomorrow', starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt. Several augmented reality screens were placed inside bus shelters in major cities in the Netherlands and Span The intention was to attract the attention of people while they waited for their bus.

By interacting with the digital screen, one could choose to virtually sport the three types of armor worn by the main characters of the film, besides also choosing between three different backgrounds inspired by the film.

At this point, people could take a picture of themselves and send them to their own email address in memory of this unique experience. In about a weeks time, over 3,000 photos were taken by individuals across Spain and the Netherlands. This resulted in the film gaining considerable attention before its release. 

  • b) Legion (TV Series)

To promote ‘Legion’, an American cable television series produced by FX Productions in association with Marvel Television, five Augmented Reality murals were placed across five locations in the US - Brooklyn (NYC), Manhattan, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Fans of the show could then use the ‘blippAR’ app to scan these murals and in the process unlocked bonus content from the show.

These are some of the trends that are a favorite of entertainment and media industry. Let's now look at some of the most exciting examples of movie marketing campaigns that have exclusively employed AR and VR to create the hype among viewers. 

8 Movie Marketing Campaigns Powered By Augmented Reality

  • 1. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Universal Studios adopted an extensive movie marketing campaign powered by augmented reality through multiple channels:

a) Through Facebook AR Effect

Taking advantage of the Super Bowl, Universal Studios decided to promote ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ by creating a special AR effect (the first of its kind) that allowed Facebook users to incorporate 'Blue' the Velociraptor (a character prominently featured in the film) into their own world.

To promote this effect, Universal added a link leading to this effect, to the description of their trailers on all platforms and exclusively promoted the Facebook trailer in their press campaign as well.

b) Through Virtual Reality Movie Promotion

By incorporating both real-world images and computer-generated ones, Universal partnered with Oculus on Facebook to launch ‘Jurassic World: Blue’, a virtual reality film series that followed ‘Blue’ the Velociraptor. Viewers were transported to the world of ‘Blue’ the Velociraptor through a two-part story that took place on Isla Nublar (located somewhere between Jurassic World and the location of its sequel).

These episodes were published for free on the Oculus Go, Oculus Rift, and Samsung Gear VR headsets. They were also demonstrated at the 25th anniversary of Jurassic Park at Universal Studios, in front of the press and at many of the film's premieres across the globe - in Los Angeles, China, Venezuela, and Singapore, to name a few.

c) In-Store and Home AR Experiences

The Universal Home Entertainment team also provided augmented reality Facebook effects for exclusive in-store and in-home experiences featuring many of the film's remarkable dinosaurs. Fans of the franchise from all over the world were able to experience an exceptional and quite distinguished AR effect from the packaging, when they purchased the film.

A promotional video for the ‘in-store’ and ‘in-home’ AR experience

Universal partnered with retailers across 18 different countries, to present, for a limited time, the stunning ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ store displays, which included instructions on how to trigger an AR experience that brought the displays to life.

All consumers had to do was scan the special QR codes shown on these displays to launch the shareable AR effect that would place the fierce Indoraptor directly in front of them, enabling them to experience what a close encounter with one of Jurassic's dinosaurs would be like. This AR campaign involved more than 17,000 stores in several retail chains and national grocery stores across the United States alone. 

A fan using the AR app in a DVD store

d) Retail experience & Interactive Merchandise

Universal also tied up with Walmart for an AR campaign where customers of Walmart could scan a special QR code to launch an amazing AR effect, in which a giant T-Rex tore open screen in rage, roared ferociously at them and then intimidated them by closely watching their every move with intense concentration.


Source: Pocketlint

In addition to the above-mentioned AR campaigns by Universal to promote ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’, the studio also released merchandise with collectible inserts that could be scanned with the camera in Facebook Messenger, thus activating an AR effect which invoked an interactive, baby version of the film's main character - the Velociraptor named 'Blue'. Fans were allowed to place this Baby Blue animation in any setting that they wished to and also share them with their friends. 


2. Sanju

Bollywood movies are no behind in experimenting with innovative AR movie marketing campaigns. The producers of these movies decided to create augmented reality experiences via Facebook’s Spark AR platform to engage more efficiently with audiences and generate interest in their movies even before their release.

Fox Star Studios promoted ‘Sanju’ with a filter that was used by over 500,000 people in just a single week. The filter eventually had 1.7 million impressions by the end of the movie’s promotional campaigning.

3. 2.0

Dharma/Lyca Productions released a filter (which let users adopt the persona of Akshay Kumar’s character in the film) that reached a whopping three million impressions in under 36 hours, helping it gain extensive media coverage.

Akshay Kumar showcasing a filter based on his character in the movie:

To promote and broadcast these AR experiences, the studios used the stars to "spread the message" and create awareness of these movies via their respective social media channels to subscribers through videos in which they demonstrated how to use these filters.

In addition, links to the filters were published in the Spark AR community group and various Bollywood fan pages to generate a dialogue about these movies and their characters. Fan clubs, influencers, other cast members and technical staff also helped in promoting these filters through their own social networks.

  • 4. Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle 

Snapcodes that were added to the latest movie of the Jumanji franchise - 'Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle' package enabled users to unlock movie-themed lenses that offered two different experiences for Snapchat users.

5. Pandas

The original IMAX documentary was also promoted with an AR component featuring an animated anthropomorphic panda that children (the film's target audience), could ask questions and get answers from.

This was very much in line with the goals of the filmmakers, whose aim was to encourage young audiences across the world to engage in conversations about the conservation of wildlife as well as the protection of critically endangered species.

Kids interacting and learning from an AR Panda Bear

6. Ghostbusters (2016)

Before unveiling any details of the all-female reboot of ‘Ghostbusters’, the franchise released ‘Ghostbusters World’, an AR game which incorporated ghosts and several other elements from all previous movies, cartoons, comics, and other content that the franchise had released thus far. The game was announced by Google at the Mobile World Congress, alongside the launch of its ARCore 1.0 development platform.


Source: Ytimg

  • 7. Rampage

The ‘AR Unleashed’ application allowed consumers to add the genetically enhanced monsters prominently featured in the movie to the world around them.


Source: flickeringmyth

People were encouraged to be as creative as possible in terms of the situations in which they placed these creatures. This was part of a contest, where the winner (with the most creative picture) got to join Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson during the film's promotional tour.

Witness the App in action!


8. Into the Storm

The producers of ‘Into the Storm’ chose to take the augmented reality route to promote their movie in Sydney, Australia.  As part of this unique “digital-out-home" campaign, hundreds of gigantic, 64-inch plasma TV screens were set up all across Sydney in a bid to appeal to viewers.


Source: Grandvisual

Those who opted to interact with these screens got their mind-blown by captivating, realistic sound and visual effects taken from the movie itself.  

Folks in Sydney being frightened by AR screens:


Summing It Up

Movie marketing has come a long way from static print advertisements to totally immersive experiences that take the viewers into a different world altogether. Big studios are rapidly experimenting with new technologies to create memorable experiences to build the pre-release hype around their films.

The emergence of augmented reality, especially with the rise of Web based Augmented Reality, there are plenty of options and ways of film promotions that can target more people with smartphones. However, one thing remains the same and that is the creativity and innovation required to tell a story to people. Technology, in the end, is a tool and unless you have a story to tell, it is not more than a gimmick whose novelty would fade off in time.

2020 Updates

Here are some recent movie marketing campaigns powered by Augmented Reality that wowed us in 2019:

1. Sony pictures' "Jumanji: The Next Level" campaign

In the bid to bring the gaming experience closer to their audience, Sony pictures banked on Augmented Reality and created exclusive web AR experiences for their global audience. Visitors to the Jumanji website/app can see themselves in 3 stunning locations from the film, with detailed animations and can find videos shot especially for web AR featuring the cast and take selfies with them. In the voice-enabled inputs, if you say 'Buy Tickets' out loud you'll be taken to the ticketing page.  

2. Reliance Entertainments' "Super 30: AR Filters"

Reliance in partnership with Phantom Films created a Super 30 filter to engage its viewers beyond their experience in the cinema halls. Viewers can scan a QR and open a link on their mobile device to experience the Super 30 classroom in their physical environment and take pictures with Hrithik's character in the movie. 

3. Jio Studios' Video-XR for "Made in China"

Jio Studios created excellent pre-release buzz by making people part of a dancing experience with the movie's characters. They rolled out a campaign where users can click their selfies and see them perform Garba along with Rajkumar Rao, actress Mouni Roy, Boman Irani etc. This experience was made sharable and I can invite my friends for a group dance as well.