- HBO unveiled branded Snapchat augmented reality (AR) lenses to promote "His Dark Materials," a show based on the fantasy books by Philip Pullman, according to details shared with Mobile Marketer. The nationwide campaign lets users of the image-messaging app interact with characters from the series, whose stars include Lin-Manuel Miranda and James McAvoy.
- The campaign features a location-based Landmarker AR Lens that activates a computer-generated experience at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood. Visitors to the historic site can see a virtual rendition of Iorek, an armored bear from the show who bursts through real-world posters promoting it.
- Snapchat's U.S. users outside the Los Angeles market can play with Face and World lenses that HBO created. Those AR lenses let Snapchat users decorate their selfies and pictures with animal characters from the series. Snapchat's lens development team closely examined the VFX in "His Dark Materials" to authentically recreate the characters' talking animal companions.
HBO's mobile-focused push for "His Dark Materials" aims to reach an audience that's most likely to have read the fantasy books aimed at young adults. With the branded AR campaign on Snapchat, the premium cable network looks to engage a target audience of American teens who are heavy users of the image-messaging app that's continued to prop up virtual filters and similar features as a key part of its pitch to advertisers.
Snapchat is used by 90% of U.S. teens, who influence billions of dollars in purchasing decisions, and by 75% of consumers ages 13 to 34, giving it a broader reach than rivals Instagram and Facebook, according to parent company Snap. The company has said that more than 70% of its users play with AR lenses every day, amounting to 250 million total minutes of daily usage.
Snapchat has become a significant part of HBO's recent marketing campaigns behind new and returning series. The company in April pioneered the use of Snapchat's Landmarker AR Lens in its promotion for the final season of "Game of Thrones." The lens showed a virtual ice dragon when people pointed their smartphone cameras at landmarks such as the Flatiron Building in New York or the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
HBO also has used AR technology outside of Snapchat, as seen with last month's promotion for the premiere of "Watchmen," a series based on the graphic novel. An out-of-home campaign brought billboards and other outdoor signage to life, creating the illusion that virtual squids were raining from the sky when engaged with a smartphone camera.
Now that "Game of Thrones" has ended, "His Dark Materials" is HBO's next big bet on establishing event programming based on a series of well-regarded fantasy novels. An earlier movie based on Pullman's books called "The Golden Compass" that was distributed by New Line Cinema bombed domestically but performed better in overseas markets, leading to questions about how the film was marketed to U.S. audiences.