- Netflix, Sony, and more studios have used Snapchat AR lenses to market movies like “Morbius.”
- Snapchat says 200 million people interact with AR on its platform every day.
- A Snapchat executive said the use of AR tech enhances the studio’s clients’ reach for its coveted young audience.
When the marketing team at Sony Pictures were preparing for the release of Morbius, they knew that one of their biggest challenges was introducing the relatively mysterious Marvel superhero to potential moviegoers. So they teamed up with Snapchat to create an Augmented Reality (AR) lens that not only showcases Dr. Michael Morbius, the vampire portrayed by Jared Leto in the movie, but can also transform Snapchat users into him.
Choosing a lens with the Snapchat camera turns half of the user’s face into Morbius and deepens their voice into his baritone. Flip the camera out of selfie mode and the lens will activate Snapchat’s world-scanning technology to mimic Morbius’ echolocation forces, bouncing light and sound off nearby objects.
“Our goal has always been to win on our own,” Elias Bleichner, executive vice president of digital marketing at Sony, told Insider. For him and for the teams behind movies like Don’t Look Up on Netflix, Warner Bros. Snapchat’s augmented reality technology, “Dune” and MGM’s “House of Gucci”, provided the opportunity for campaigns to stand out with the app’s 500 million monthly active users, including 90% of all 13-24-year-olds in the US .
“We have audiences that are not on TikTok, not on Facebook or Instagram, that are really hard to reach on Twitter,” said Alexa Levine, head of US entertainment at Snapchat’s parent company. “You really can’t find it anywhere else.”
Moreover, the app’s audience is particularly excited about video entertainment, according to the company’s NRG report last year that showed Snapchat users were 1.7 times more likely than people not using the app to see a movie in theaters in the first weekend.
Snapchat augmented reality is capturing that audience: According to the company, 200 million people interact with AR on its platform every day. And in 2021, theater campaigns that used Snapchat AR lenses in addition to purchasing video ads saw an increased reach rate of 32%.
“My team’s job is to put butts in the seats of these theater agents,” Levine said. “The truth is, if you want to do this today, you have to be in the camera and you have to use augmented reality because you are not going to get the same increased reach. [without it]. “
As a result, for studios like Universal Pictures, Snapchat augmented reality lenses have become indispensable when marketing a new movie. “We are working with them on all of our titles,” said Alex Sanger, global digital marketing EVP at Universal, who recently directed lenses for the M. Night Shyamalan thriller “Old,” which premiered exclusively in theaters, and “Marry Me.” The Jennifer Lopez romcom that aired on Peacock on the same day it debuted in cinemas.
“Their AR technology is top shelf, and they continue to develop really cool technology,” said Snapchat’s Sanger. “This really allows us a lot of creative freedom. We can come up with bigger ideas with Snapchat and be able to implement them.”
Marketers love the platform in part because it encourages social interaction – users regularly send messages and photos to each other through the app. “We want people to really consume our content, spend a lot of time with it, and hopefully pass it on to their friends and followers,” Blechner said.
Snapchat’s augmented reality technology also allows movie studios to immerse themselves in the metaverse — that buzzword that includes a range of virtual experiences. In addition to the “Morbius” lens, other lenses that have gone beyond the limits include the Universal “Halloween Kills” lens, which used the application’s volumetric body scanning technology to place killer Michael Myers in real-world environments.
While it’s hard to quantify how many people switch from interacting with a Snapchat lens to buying a movie ticket, there are other metrics that can add to success. For the “Morbius” lens, for example, Plishner focused on engagement. “Of all the lenses we’ve done, I think it has the longest playing time,” he said.