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HBO Launches Quirky AR Campaign To Promote ‘Watchmen’

October 31, 2019 Sarah Cavill

With HBO juggernaut Game of Thrones gone forever and sleeper hit Succession finishing out its second season, HBO recently launched their much anticipated twisty, sci-fi, political mindbender Watchmen. The marketing campaign around Watchmen relied heavily on word of mouth on social media — particularly since the series is based on a very popular graphic novel and was previously made into a movie. However, HBO also rolled out Watchmen trailers before Succession, and created an out-of-home (OOH) augmented reality (AR) initiative that brought to life Watchmen digital video boards, also called liveboards.

watchmen image from HBO

It’s Raining Squid

Spoiler alert: In the town where Watchmen takes place, it rains squid — and this is just one of many strange happenings on Watchmen. Capturing that unique and unexpected quality of the series, especially when appealing to viewers curious about which aspects from the original content will stick around for the series, was an inspiration for the AR campaign.

According to OUTFRONT, which created the digital, outdoor assets for Watchmen, “The [Watchmen] campaign maximizes augmented reality on L.A. and N.Y. bus shelters, which surprises commuters as it appears to rain squids from the sky, a reference from the original Watchmen graphic novel and the series' first episode. This [effect] is accomplished by placing a camera directed on the street and superimposing the experience on the current environment.” The liveboards also included a countdown to the series start date.

“The combination of highly visible out-of-home media formats created huge awareness for Watchmen's much anticipated launch,” said Jodi Senese, Chief Marketing Officer of OUTFRONT Media. “HBO utilized a strong mix of static and dynamic digital assets to prime and excite the marketplace for this bold new series.”

AR Is Becoming More Common In TV Promotions

westworld logo image from HBO

Previously, HBO used AR when the network partnered with Snapchat on a Westworld filter that fans of the android series could use to join the robot wars — at least virtually. The filter was accompanied by the Westworld theme song and allowed users to change their usernames to “host ids” like on the series, and it even replicated a special effect from Westworld when users opened their mouths in the filter.

Other networks are playing with the possibilities of AR, including the BBC, which last year launched its first AR app for Civilisations, a documentary series that explores the roots of civilization. The Civilisations AR app allowed fans of the show to view and explore art and artifacts from around the globe, including an Egyptian mummy and Rodin’s The Kiss. Using their phones and the Civilisations AR app, users can tour museums and even “interact” with them, for example, rubbing the surface of an ancient scripture to see what it originally looked like when the author first wrote it.

OOH Spending Is Growing And Incorporating Digital

Watchmen had HBO’s strongest digital debut since Westworld in 2016, scoring 1.5 million multiplatform views. The rise of multiplatform viewers is likely influencing the increase in digital and tech-focused promotional campaigns like the raining squids. However, traditional OOH advertising, including billboards and subway posters is one of the few non-digital areas of advertising continuing to thrive, with spending at $8 billion in 2018, up from 4.5%. 29% of the total OOH revenue in 2018 was digital. OOH advertising is hard to ignore, and it builds excitement, especially for anticipated TV events. The incorporation of mobile and digital strategies into OOH campaigns can only engage a larger audience.

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About the Author

Sarah Cavill

With more than 20 years of writing, editing and reporting experience, Sarah Cavill brings to Digital Media Solutions (DMS) a fine-tuned and diverse set of skills. Her work has been featured in notable publications including The Daily Muse, CBS Local, Techlicious and Glamour magazine. Sarah has a passion for current events and the deep-dive research that goes into the content development and brand identity of DMS Insights. In her role as Senior Marketing Communications Writer, Sarah contributes to the pitching, researching and writing of multiple stories published each week surrounding digital and performance marketing innovations in pop culture, news, social media, branding and advertising.

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