- BBC America, the pay-TV network jointly owned by AMC Networks and BBC Studios, premiered the latest season of the science fiction series "Doctor Who" with a mobile augmented reality (AR) experience on Jan. 1. A special commercial break sponsored by Subaru showed a QR code that viewers could scan with their smartphones to see virtual imagery from the show in their real surroundings, according to information shared with Mobile Marketer.
- The AR experience let fans interact with a computer-generated "TARDIS," a fictional time machine and spacecraft shaped like a British police telephone booth. The AR experience didn't require viewers to download a separate app to activate the content, making it feel more seamless, per the announcement.
- BBC America also showcased the AR experience with a special screening for superfans at theaters on Jan. 5. A preview showed the QR code to activate the virtual view of a TARDIS. BBC America worked with Composite, a mobile ad platform created by the innovation lab of digital agency Glow, to create the AR activation.
The AR campaign for "Doctor Who" aims to engage fans with an immersive mobile experience while adding to the show's entertainment value. By urging fans to share the experience on social media, BBC America can extend the promotional value of its AR content among show fans and their followers. Social sharing supports viral publicity, especially among younger audiences who tend to be more difficult to reach through traditional media like broadcast TV and print.
"Doctor Who" has inspired people to create AR content of their own, including virtual renditions of a TARDIS, since BBC revived the show in 2005.
AR experiences have become prominent in promotions for TV series and films in the past few years as the technology industry has created more software tools to urge development of computer-generated content that's overlaid on a smartphone user's real surroundings. NBCUniversal this week introduced a web-based AR experience called "Into the Trenches" inspired by its World War I epic "1917" to immerse viewers in a 3D model of the set used for drone photography, Next Reality reported.
These immersive experiences also have become more common for in-app movie promotions on social media platforms. Paramount Pictures last month created an AR "trailer reaction lens" on Snapchat that let users of the image-messaging app record a video selfie as they watched a preview for "Top Gun: Maverick," the movie sequel that premieres this summer. HBO in November created branded AR lenses in Snapchat to raise awareness of the show "His Dark Materials" among the Generation Z audience.
Global spending on AR and virtual reality (VR) technology will surge 79% to $18.8 billion this year from 2019, per a forecast by International Data Corp. Most of that spending will be for hardware, such as specialized headsets and equipment to view computer-generated content. AR's main advantage over VR is its accessibility on smartphones, while VR requires special equipment. The number of AR users in the U.S. will reach 77.7 million this year — up from 68.7 million in 2019 — compared with 51.8 million who use VR, per an eMarketer forecast.