This week Disney announced its working on a new type of film poster that uses facial recognition technology to map people’s facial expressions onto the character on the poster. Its first outing will be for the launch of the new live-action Dumbo remake.

Filmmakers have always looked to new technology to attract new audiences. Some, like motion caption technology, have become mainstream. Others, like Smell-O-Vision, bombed. Audiences in the 1910s didn’t hold out much hope for Technicoloror sound for that matterthinking that it would ruin the movies for good.

While those making the films have innovated, the marketers haven’t so much. Trailers, premieres and press junkets remain firm favourites. But the poster, other than making the shift from hand painted to computer generated, has seen little innovation. Once an artform in own rightthink Jurassic Park, Jaws, The Shining, The Thing, and so many more has faded away. Marketing films is no longer about the best-looking billboard, it’s now more important to generate a buzz on social media.

Could augmented reality (AR) be the magic bullet that makes movie posters relevant again? Disney certainly hopes so as it has agreed to a three-year deal with Accenture Interactive to develop these posters. Sure, they may be great at events such as a film’s launch or Disney’s D-23 event. But with so many of us consuming our film advertising on our devices will this have the same effect? Perhaps if they adapt it for social networking sites like Snapchat and Instagram, where you can post your own character selfiebut users are unlikely to engage with a pop up.

Streaming services have hit the industry hard, and studios are looking for new ways to competeDisney is even launching its own streaming service. But this won’t necessarily be enough, to keep the film industry alive studios will need to encourage audiences back into cinemas.

We’re pretty torn at Gloo HQ as to whether this is a good application of AR or not. On the one hand it’s a cool use of the technology and helps modernise an old form of advertising. But on the other hand, you’re limited to making a CGI elephant smile or frownso is it really that innovative? Will it be enough to bring audiences back? We’re not convinced.

Posted by John on 14 March 2019