- Netflix, Sony, and more studios have used Snapchat AR lenses to market movies like “Morbius.”
- Snapchat says 200 million people engage with AR on its platform each day.
- A Snapchat exec said using AR tech boosts studio clients’ reach with its coveted young audience.
When the marketing team at Sony Pictures was preparing for the release of “Morbius,” they knew one of their biggest challenges would be introducing the relatively obscure 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 in the film by Jared Leto, but also can turn Snapchatters into him.
Selecting the lens using Snapchat’s camera transforms half the user’s face into Morbius’ and deepens their voice into his signature baritone. Flip the camera out of selfie mode and the lens activates Snapchat’s world scanning technology to mimic Morbius’ echolocation powers, bouncing light and sound off of nearby objects.
“Our goal is always to one-up ourselves,” Sony EVP of worldwide digital marketing Elias Plishner told Insider. For him and the teams behind such films as Netflix’s “Don’t Look Up,” Warner Bros. ‘ “Dune,” and MGM’s “House of Gucci,” Snapchat’s AR technology provided the opportunity for campaigns to stand out with the app’s 500 million monthly active users, who include 90% of all 13-24-year-olds in the US.
“We have audiences that are not on TikTok, not on Facebook or Instagram, really hard to reach on Twitter,” said Alexa Levine, US head of entertainment at Snapchat’s parent company. “You can’t really find them anywhere else.”
What’s more, the app’s audience is particularly passionate about filmed entertainment, according to an NRG report the company released last year that showed Snapchatters were 1.7x more likely than people who don’t use the app to see a movie in theaters on premiere weekend.
Snapchat’s AR takes hold of that audience: According to the company, 200 million people engage with AR on its platform each day. And in 2021, theatrical campaigns that utilized Snapchat AR lenses in addition to video ad buys saw an average 32% incremental reach.
“My team’s job is to put butts in seats for these theatrical clients,” said Levine. “The truth is, if you want to do that today, you have to be in the camera and you have to use AR because you won’t get as much incremental reach [without it]. “
As a result, for studios like Universal Pictures, Snapchat’s AR lenses have become indispensable when marketing a new film. “We’re working with them for all of our titles,” said Alex Sanger, Universal’s EVP global digital marketing, who recently ran lenses for M. Night Shyamalan thriller “Old,” which premiered exclusively in theaters, and “Marry Me,” the Jennifer Lopez romcom that streamed on Peacock the same day it debuted in cinemas.
“Their AR tech is top shelf, and they just are continuing to develop really great technology,” said Sanger of Snapchat. “That really allows us a lot of creative freedom. We can come up with the bigger ideas with Snapchat and be able to execute them.”
Marketers like 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, hopefully pass it along to their friends and followers,” said Plishner.
Snapchat’s AR technology also lets movie studios dabble in the metaverse – that squishy buzzword that encompasses a range of virtual experiences. In addition to the “Morbius” lens, others that have pushed the boundaries include Universal’s “Halloween Kills” lens, which used the app’s volumetric body scan technology to place murderer Michael Myers into real world environments.
Though it’s hard to determine just how many people convert from interacting with a Snapchat lens into buying a movie ticket, there are other metrics that can add up to success. For the “Morbius” lens, for example, Plishner was focused on engagement. “Of all the lenses we’ve done, I think it has the longest play time,” he said.