A Mobile Homecoming: Why Spider-Man and mixed reality are a perfect match

Tim Maytom

This week sees Spider-Man: Homecoming open in cinemas across the globe, and while this may be our third different Spider-Man in 15 years, there’s at least one person who’s had a consistent presence across the various different iterations of the friendly neighbourhood webhead: Jason Yim, owner, president and executive creative director of mixed reality marketing agency Trigger.

Yim first worked on marketing for Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 for digital agency Media Revolution, but since moving to Trigger, he has helped steer the Sony franchises towards the power of augmented and mixed reality, offering film fans a chance to bridge the physical and digital worlds.

“We first worked with Sony in mixed reality on a campaign for District 9 in 2009,” said Yim, speaking to Mobile Marketing Magazine. “In these early days of AR, users had to hold up a printed pattern in front of their webcam to see the aliens or their mothership appear. The user experience was convoluted and the 3D graphics were low-fi, but we were hooked and the studio saw potential.

“The nascent technology improved remarkably by The Amazing Spider-Man in 2012. Our campaign spread the ‘wow moment’ of AR across 15 pieces of film collateral and partner content. Fans could point their smartphone at the movie poster, a Carl’s Jr standee, an Entertainment Weekly magazine and even the PlayStation game cover to make Spidey appear in AR. Each marker revealed a new animation, created from two days of dedicated motion capture with the actual Spider-Man stunt man.”

For Spider-Man: Homecoming, Trigger created a range of mixed reality experiences that sat within the official app for the movie, and utilised the firm’s User Generated Target technology, which enables users to designate almost any flat surface to be a marker.

The mixed reality features in the app include the ability to take an AR ‘selfie with Spidey’, similar to Snapchat’s well-known lenses. There's also an AR ‘Suit Explorer’, which lets fans glimpse some of the unique tools and devices built into Spider-Man’s iconic suit by Tony Stark, AKA Iron Man.

“The AR experience for Homecoming is much more tailored to the audience’s love for photos and sharing,” said Yim. “The app emphasises ease of use and sharing, allow fans to place Spider-Man in their world using any available image as a marker. Fans can immediately snap pictures of a quick and simple animation to share with their friends.”

The app also offers a wide variety of non-mixed reality features, including the ability to access ‘Peter Parker’s phone’, where fans can find personal photos, text messages and even voicemails from other characters in the film.

The film has also had a wide-ranging social campaign in the build-up to its release, including Facebook Live events with the cast, social media contests to win tickets to the premiere and a Twitter Q&A with Michael Keaton, who plays the villainous Vulture in the film.

Another Spider-Man: Homecoming AR experience, this time at the Sony Square NYC space in Manhattan

According to Yim, the Spider-Man films have always embraced the latest in digital marketing and, thanks to the young audience targeted by the movies, mobile marketing has performed particularly well in reaching the key demographic.

“Exit polls on the first movie showed that over 20 per cent of fans had visited the official site,” said Yim. “And our app for The Amazing Spider-Man was the first AR app to break 1m downloads. For Homecoming, Trigger is piloting an analytics package specifically for mixed reality that will precisely measure the usage, performance and impact of our app.

“Mixed reality is the perfect technology for film marketing because summer blockbusters uniquely supply three critical ingredients for success,” Yim said.

“A hungry fanbase, so that budgets can be focused on developing a great app instead of buying media to drive traffic to an app for an unknown IP. High-quality VFX assets that can be pulled directly from the film’s production and modified for AR. And exciting storylines that allow for fun and engaging user interaction, from cool animations to full gaming experiences.”

Don’t forget to enter the Effective Mobile Marketing Awards. The Early Bird deadline for submissions is 22 July. More details here.