Reengineer Transmedia Storytelling with Augmented Reality

W​hat if instead of just entertaining your viewers, your viewers became apart of the story?

With the expansion of the entertainment industry, marketers need to find innovative ways to stay relevant and facilitate engagement. Transmedia storytelling creates one storyline that expands over different media platforms, increasing both reach and frequency among your viewers.

Using Augmented Reality (AR) in transmedia storytelling, the entertainment industry can accomplish much more. Without a purpose that incorporates and impacts the viewer, audience engagement with entertainment is not reaching its maximum potential. This is where AR comes in.

AR extends beyond the boundaries of the screen and allows the consumer to immerse themselves into the story.

So, how can you incorporate AR into your marketing mix to increase audience engagement and ratings?

In this article, ​Chloe Gabel​, J​essi Biagioni​, ​Collin McGrew, and Joachim Scholz discuss how AR can completely reengineer transmedia storytelling within the entertainment industry.

Marketers using AR can reap the benefits of increasing reach and relevance with the target market. However, keep in mind that AR technology requires significant investment and strategic execution.

Below, we illustrate the incorporation of AR to extend the storylines of entertainment marketing into the real world. We discuss 3 ways in which entertainment marketers can both create meaningful connections between fans and unify all media efforts.

Extending the Boundaries of the Physical World

Before the launch of The Dark Knight movie, 42 Entertainment released an alternate reality game called ​Why So Serious?​ to promote the premiere of the movie. The results were spectacular – this alternate reality game grew a tremendous audience of “10 million and [helped] The Dark Knight gain the greatest number of advanced presale tickets ever recorded – selling out its entire opening day”.

42 Entertainment notes that the success of this interactive campaign “illustrates the growing demand for social entertainment”. By pulling fans into the storyline and letting their actions unroll the overall story, ​Why So Serious?​ was able to create a unique crowd culture. 

Why So Serious?​ pulls fans into the alternate world of Gotham City by creating the Joker Scavenger Hunt. Check out this ​video​ to see how the game works.

The Dark Knight ​Why So Serious?​ game creates an AR Gotham City

This revolutionary creation of an alternate reality fostered tremendous levels of audience engagement through transmedia storytelling.

However, it could have been more.

Back in 2009, we did not have the technological capability to use AR. ​As a result, Why So Serious?​ was only able to use digital and online media to create their alternate reality.

Although alternate reality gaming creates a new fan culture, it has its drawbacks.

Alternate reality gaming creates exactly what it says, an alternate reality that fans can be a part of. This “alternate reality” is only experienced through online digital media – there is no interaction with the physical world.

Building an alternate reality is effective when creating a fan culture surrounding the alternate world. But is that the most effective way to make your story resonate with viewers?

Why AR is Key in Transmedia Storytelling

AR creates a deeper alternate reality that connects with the user’s physical world. Alternate realities are no longer confined to the digital boundaries of the technologies that created them.

With AR, boundaries extend to the real world where physical items become a part of the alternate universe.

Effective transmedia storytelling with AR gaming is possible when fan involvement is necessary to further build the story. However, because ​Why So Serious?​ places users in an alternate world that relies completely on digital media, it doesn’t encourage users to interact with the outside world.

The ​Why So Serious? ​campaign could have been even better if it had access to the spatialized media of AR. With AR, alternative reality is so closely entangled with the physical world that it has the power to extend beyond the game.

How AR Increased Audience Engagement through Transmedia Storytelling

AR recently proved its success in entertainment with the Archer AR Campaign. With 7 seasons and counting, the popular American adult animated spy sitcom, Archer, recently launched an app in hopes to get people more involved in season 8. The app allows viewers to utilize AR to receive hints about upcoming episodes. 

The Archer AR App in Action

By allowing viewers to become a part of the show, they transform into a next level enthusiast within the Archer community.

When users open the app and hold their phone up to Archer material (such as items displayed on the TV show, Archer Billboards, and Archer advertisements), they will trigger an interaction with a clue that will display a set of specific animations. The triggering of objects is called “Archering.”

Ultimately, this campaign was successful because clues were hidden in the show and the real world.

The use of physical and digital objects makes the transmedia storytelling continuous.

This campaign adds another dimension to audience engagement. Once the user has collected a series of clues, they can unlock “secrets,” which ultimately help the Archer characters solve the mystery. Besides watching the show, viewers become incorporated into the story. Soon, the story becomes their reality.

Different Types of Media Create Different Realities

Both the ​Why So Serious?​ campaign and Archer P.I. created an alternate reality. However, they used different media types to create their realities. ​Why So Serious?​ used online/digital media (videos, boards, etc.), while Archer P.I. used spatialized media (AR). Ultimately, only Archer had access to this new form of media. Thus, Archer’s alternate reality was more effective for audience engagement than The Dark Knight’s.

Remember, these are only two examples illustrating the potential of transmedia storytelling.

With AR, you too can create deeper engagement across all platforms by weaving your content into the viewer’s world.

3 Steps to Creating AR Enriched Transmedia Storytelling

The goal for marketers is to transform viewing into participation. Using AR to facilitate transmedia storytelling adds another dimension of audience engagement to your show. Here’s how you can increase audience engagement with your entertainment content:

1. Create an AR subplot that coincides with the original entertainment content

2. Make the viewer a contributor to the story

3. Use everyday items to anchor the show’s world

1. Create an AR Subplot that Coincides with the Original Entertainment Content

When creating an AR app, it’s vital that the plot is consistent with your existing content. Your viewers are already fans of the material in your entertainment content. The next step is to accurately represent that story with the AR world you create.

Both Archer P.I. and ​Why So Serious? i​ncorporated themes of the original plot into an interactive game. By focusing on memorable objects and themes of the show, Archer’s app compliments the entertainment content that viewers are used to.

Remember, when you create your own AR campaign, consistency and innovation in your storyline is key.

By choosing the right elements to include in your AR campaign, you make the connection between media feel more legitimate. Ultimately, the purpose of this strategy is to entangle objects and themes through transmedia storytelling.

Next, you can create a subplot within the app. Utilizing different media platforms, you can stretch your story beyond the screen and into the everyday lives of your viewers. The subplot connects the storyline of the original content to the personal experience of the user. Now, the once mundane objects in the viewer’s world have a new meaning in the AR world.

2. Make the Viewer a Contributor to the Story

AR can successfully facilitate audience engagement with the content of your storyline. In the Archer example, users were already fans of the show and felt a connection with the story. With the addition of the AR app, the viewer could now be a Personal Investigator, solving crimes enhance Archer’s storyline.

Implementing AR in transmedia storytelling allows viewers to join the characters in the story.

Creating this “part of the team” mentality for viewers opens up a new level of audience engagement. Audience members become an active participant in the story rather than simply viewing the story.

When viewers immerse themselves into the story and see themselves as a contributor, you can create deep levels of engagement. With Archer P.I., the case cannot be solved and the story cannot be told unless the audience finds the clues.

Transmedia storytelling links the episode & mobile story in Archer P.I

3. Use Everyday Items to Anchor the Show’s World

Integrating transmedia screens provides a new level of audience engagement for fans. Before, entertainment was separate from the viewer’s personal reality. As Jo Scholz​ and Andrew Smith point out​, AR takes a step further in audience engagement by merging your content with the viewer’s world. With AR—these two worlds become “entangled.”

So, what does this mean for you?

In order to increase audience engagement, you need to integrate personal items into your AR application.

In the Archer app, clues were “entangled” in a new merged world.

This strategy made the show incredibly real and vivid for viewers because they were already familiar with those items. Moreover, it introduced a new experience inside viewers’ own lives.

Finally, utilizing everyday items creates a feeling of importance for consumers within the storyline. To help Archer solve the case, Archer’s AR app not only encourages but requires audience engagement with the various media advertising platforms. This new prerogative captures viewers and consequently increases ratings. By bringing both personal items and branded items into your AR campaign, you too can increase audience engagement!

Ultimately, AR Portals Link Physical and Alternate Realities

A current trend in media production is the idea of dropping “Easter Eggs” throughout the story. “Easter Eggs” can only be found if viewers pay close attention to every detail in the show. The main goal of these “Easter Eggs” is to encourage fan groups to discuss what the hidden objects mean and where you can find them.

In short, “Easter Eggs” increase audience engagement after watching the show.

AR pushes the “Easter Egg” idea to the next level. These hidden objects will no longer be found only in the TV show. Now, the “Easter Eggs” can include physical objects that fans can discuss. AR goes far beyond the idea of “Easter Eggs.” Instead, it creates “AR Portals” that build real connections between the show’s alternate world and audience’s physical world.

“AR Portals” push audience engagement into your storyline because they are a constant reminder of the story. With “Easter Eggs,” you need to watch the show to see them.

With “AR Portals,” the audience can look at any physical object and be transported into your story’s alternate world.

By using physical objects that anyone can interact with, AR also encourages fan culture. The discussion travels beyond, “did you see that last episode?” It now includes, “did you see that the dollar bill in your wallet is a clue to the mystery?”

Future of AR Marketing in Entertainment

AR is an extraordinary tool for marketing to consumers. Its benefits and efficiency are only going to increase as technology continues to develop. By using AR to facilitate transmedia storytelling, you can strengthen connections with your audience.

A successful AR campaign requires strategic execution with the viewer in mind. Only then will the viewer’s world and the AR world collide to create the ultimate form of engagement. Remember, involving the viewer in your content will increase ratings and views. After implementing these tactics, you will be on your way to stardom.

To keep up to date with emerging marketing techniques, subscribe to for upcoming articles on the latest and greatest AR campaigns.

This post was written by Chloe Gabel, Jessi Biagioni, Collin McGrew, and Dr. Joachim Scholz. The authors thank Sonya Bengali for her help in editing this article. Please follow the authors on Twitter for more information on this topic.

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