As far as HBO is concerned, it's not augmented reality — it's Snapchat.
The premium cable network is leaning hard on Snapchat's AR magic tricks to promote yet another series, this time for the adaptation of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series of novels.
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Starring Lin Manuel Miranda and James McAvoy, the show prominently features several animal characters, called daemons. These daemons also serve as the focal point of HBO's AR advertising through Snapchat.
On Wednesday, HBO published a Lens to the AR carousel for Snapchat on iOS and Android that lets users take selfies with a few of the furry friends from the show. In addition, an AR experience for the rear camera overlays a virtual aurora over the camera view.
According to a Snap spokesperson, Snap's Lens artists worked with the actual visual effects from the show in order to emulate the rendering of the creatures' fur and to maximize the realism of the AR experience.
HBO began its AR promotions for the show earlier this month with an AR experience that uses Snapchat's Marker Tracking technology to summon the giant polar bear Iorek Byrinson, who bursts forth from posters installed in New York and Los Angeles featuring key art from the series.
Then, not long after, HBO launched a Landmarker Lens for Snapchat users in the vicinity of the TCL Chinese Theater in Los Angeles. When users point their smartphone cameras at the building, Byrnison climbs into view atop the theater's roof.
The cable network has some previous experience with the Landmarker Lens. The brand used the technology in an AR experience promoting Game of Thrones that featured a dragon perched atop the Flatiron Building in New York.
Despite its established preference for Snapchat, HBO has dabbled with other AR platforms as well. HBO and its parent company AT&T partnered with Magic Leap for another Game of Thrones promotion. Then, HBO tapped Outfront Media for an outdoor AR advertising campaign for Watchmen.
HBO has good reason to favor Snapchat, though. According to Snap's third quarter earnings report, the app has now surpassed 210 million daily active users, its largest total yet. While Facebook and Instagram have a larger user pool, Snapchat enjoys an advantage with younger audiences, as Snap reports that more than 90% of 13- to 24-year-olds and 75% of 13- to 34-year-olds in the US are active Snapchat users.
It's no wonder that Facebook is eager to match Snapchat's AR effects at every turn.
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