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Say his name: how horror movie Candyman is using voice-activated AR to engage audiences


By Chris Sutcliffe | Senior reporter

August 25, 2021 | 5 min read

In the world of the horror franchise Candyman, the titular character can be summoned by saying his name in front of a mirror five times. Ahead of the release of the latest movie in the franchise, Monkeypaw Productions and MGM have partnered with augmented reality (AR) company 8th Wall to produce an AR teaser that invites audiences to call on the killer themselves.


Say his name: how horror movie Candyman is using voice-activated AR to engage audiences

Powered by 8th Wall’s proprietary SDK, the camera and microphone on the user’s mobile or desktop device are used to track inputs, including the repetition of “Candyman”. As the number of times the name is spoken increases, further unsettling imagery is layered on to the user’s image, creating the impression that the Candyman is being invoked. Once the scare at the end has been reached, the final trailer can be viewed.

It is a sophisticated iteration of voice-activated advertising executions that platforms have been investing in, in addition to the vast array of AR tools that are being rolled out across Snapchat and other platforms. Smart TVs have had the capability to use microphones built into remote controls for ‘voice-activated commercials’ for some time, but layering AR on top of the voice recognition tools allows for a more engaging experience.

It builds upon work done by the agency Trigger and 8th Wall’s tech for other entertainment properties, including the latest Jumanji movie. For that execution users were tasked with saying “show me Jumanji” in order to access a digital map of the movie and some exclusive footage. Crucially, users could then say “buy tickets” in order to be redirected to the ticket purchasing chain.

It is also a more in-depth activation of a previous marketing gimmick related to the teaser, in which Twitter users were tasked with tweeting the term five times in order to gain access to the early trailer.

Speak, friend, and enter

This type of voice-activated AR tool would once have been limited to certain platforms; some AR tools are still confined to iOS, for instance. What 8th Wall’s SDK does is allow the experience to be rolled out across all platforms simultaneously.

Tom Ffiske is an AR and VR specialist. He says that iterations of AR that use the web across different platforms rather than within specific apps have significant advantages for marketing purposes. “For augmented reality, almost certainly the future is web-based augmented reality. And that’s for a few reasons. One is if you can access it via the web browser of the phone, you immediately have access to more phones for your campaign, because you just scan and go.

“The second reason is tracking as well. So you can track visitors’ experience, which is a really good engagement stat to bring back to the client.

“The downside, obviously, is it’s not as sophisticated because you’re limited by the capabilities of the phone itself. [But] what creative campaigns have shown is that you don’t need to be hyper data-graphical in order to have a successful campaign. If you’re smart, it’s usually quite effective.”

As brands look to make their marketing more engaging, using voice activation to further develop their AR ads is one method of doing so. Using tools that allow for well-executed campaigns across a wide array of devices ensures that lots of users can be targeted and tracked, and then enter the purchase funnel directly afterward.

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