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A&?s Bates Motel transforms phones into flashlights for virtual tour

A&E?s Bates Motel series has rolled out a 3D virtual tour of the motel?s rooms, leveraging mobile for a second-screen tool.

Consumers can go to a microsite on a desktop to explore the rooms of the motel, and they can sync their phones to the desktop to use it as a flashlight and illuminate different areas of the rooms. Digital marketing company TVGla created the experience in advance of the series? second year premiere on March 3.

"One of the biggest themes in Bates Motel is the idea that nothing is what it seems on the surface, you always have to dig a little deeper for the truth," said Dimitry Ioffe, CEO of TVGla, Los Angeles. "This was our inspiration for the flashlight feature ? giving users that mechanism to explore the world of Norma and Norman Bates, the darkness lurking beneath the surface.

"We?re giving users more context behind some of the major plot points in the show," he said. "We didn?t want to create an experience that simply parroted what is on the show, we wanted to guide users along a narrative to make their own conclusions about what is really happening in the town of White Pine Bay.

"We love this technology. It?s novel, fun and knowing that most of our audience have their phone on them 24/7, it gave us the opportunity create a new way to experience a desktop site. Plus, there?s nothing creepier than wandering around the Bates Motel in the dark with nothing to guide you but a flashlight."

Flashlight phone
When consumers go to on a desktop, they can get a behind-the-scenes view of the Bates Motel. When they click to enter, they can use a map to virtually wander around the motel.

In some of the rooms, the site will prompt consumers with copy that says, ?Don?t let the darkness stop you, but you?ll need a flashlight.? It then gives consumers the option to use their smartphone or mouse as a flashlight.

If consumers click on phone, the site directs them to go to on their phone and enter a four-digit code. The computer will then connect to the phone via HTML5 Web-sockets, and consumers must calibrate their phone by pointing at a dot on the screen.

They can then move their phone around to light up different areas of the room on the desktop site.

Alternatively, consumers can do the same thing with the mouse by hovering it over different areas on the screen.

From the microsite, consumers can also go to the show?s general page to learn more about Bates Motel.

For the virtual experience, TVGla shot footage on the actual Bates Motel set and aligned the site with actual storylines and themes from the show. As consumers explore the rooms, they can discover clues and links to more information about the coming series.

This project from Bates Motel takes second-screen to the next level, creating a digital experience to pair with a television show, while using smartphones as a complement to desktop.

Frito Lay's created a similar experience for Cheetos by having consumers use a mobile device as a remote control for a YouTube game last year (see story).

Bates Motel leverages the trifecta of TV, desktop and mobile to engage consumers in a creative way that blends the different channels.

On top of that blending of channels, the microsite also features a custom Twitter module that lets consumers participate in the Bates Motel Twitter conversation while exploring the site. The site also links to original videos, behind the scenes films and trailers of the coming series. 

"Mobile experiences are no longer necessary for digital marketers, they are vital," Mr. Ioffe said. "Consumers, especially millennials, are savvy multi-taskers, and they are constantly on the hunt for something that adds value ? either entertainment or utility.

"We found that extending the experience where possible into the mobile space opens up the show to a savvy fan base where mobile is underserved," he said. 

"In this case, a fully immersive site didn?t translate well to mobile, so we opted to use the mobile site as a tease, directing users to the desktop site, which then integrated mobile as a core element of the experience."

Final Take
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York