MM Awards

Branded YouCam filters promote Ghost in the Shell, putting focus on 'whitewashed' cast

Alex Spencer

Paramount Pictures has partnered with Perfect Corp’s YouCam apps to promote the release of Ghost in the Shell, its film adaptation of the beloved Japanese manga and anime series.

The tie-up will see the film’s female characters, including lead Scarlett Johansson, featuring across the beauty apps in a variety of ways. YouCam Perfect, a camera touch-up app, will feature branded photo frames. YouCam Fun is adding animated AR overlays themed around the characters, and filters in YouCam Makeup will enable users to ‘try on’ make-up looks inspired by the cast.

This will be bolstered with a ticket giveaway in the apps and across YouCam’s social media presence, with the prizes delivered through mobile cinema ticket service Fandango.

“Perfect Corp is honoured to kick off our first official feature film collaboration with Ghost in the Shell,” said Perfect CEO Alice Chang. “The movie is the perfect platform to create this type of integration where modern life and technology intersect. It is very exciting to deliver a best-in-class augmented reality experience to over 400m YouCam users and dedicated Ghost in the Shell fans around the world.”

It’s an interesting attempt to reach a young female audience for the film, which has not traditionally been the target demographic for sci-fi action movies.

However, a campaign that focuses so heavily on the appearance of Ghost in the Shell’s cast feels like a potential mistep, given the accusations of ‘whitewashing’ – that is, casting a white actor, Johansson, in the role of an Asian character – that have followed the production online.

This controversy is something that has caused previous attempts at social marketing to backfire. The #IAmMajor web app, enabling users to overlay a photo with a message of their choosing, was used to create various pictures – many of which achieved viral success on Twitter – criticising the film and other recent offenders of whitewashing Asian roles, including Netflix’s Iron Fist series and 20th Century Fox’s Dragonball Evolution movie.