by Studio McGuire
The Invited by Studio McGuire reimagines the classic story of Dracula with a pop-up book augmented by AR technology serving as a conduit for Dracula’s reincarnation. Set in a dark, secret location, a book and a tablet together summon one audience at a time through an unsettling 20-minute experience in which each page turn reveals a new exquisite kirigami world and a new set of broody holograms. The Invited is a 2020 phase one prototype funded by CreativeXR. Best categorised as a Short Fiction in terms of immersive formats, The Invited is to take place in locations such as shipping containers. The audience role is an active observant, operating as yourself throughout the experience.
Research suggests that VR and AR are not markedly different in terms of current sites of engagement: Both technologies are most popular in the home amongst younger audiences, and, as of 2020, both VR and AR are most commonly consumed outside of the home amongst audiences over the age of 25, a statistic that likely reflects the headset manufacturers’ current marketing approaches and the traditional video gaming audience. While the market for temporary events, installations, art galleries and museums predicated on AR technology is currently small, research also indicates that there is a small but thriving market for temporary events, installations, art galleries and museums predicated on VR technology. As such, and in order to try and broaden the audience for AR experiences, it was key to promote The Invited with the aura of magical worlds that audiences may well associate with VR, albeit communicating the power of AR to reveal dark layers of magic hidden within our own world.
The campaign was informed by the Immersive Promotion Bible, funded by StoryFutures Academy.
Aim: To broaden the audience for AR-based event experiences by taking a magic-orientated approach to promotion, specifically based on miniaturisation and paper-craft that foregrounds layers of revelation.
Title of campaign: ‘Visible to Some'.
Strategy summary: We centre the promotion around the idea that Dracula was never just a story, but a warning from history about the evils the plague all our lives. The campaign sets up a mystery about what Dracula needs to bring himself back to life, with the promotional materials luring audiences in through four phases of immersion: seeing, revealing, entering and becoming. The original theme of Dracula – that we need both contemporary science and ancient knowledge together – is reimagined here as the answer to the mystery, i.e. the secret to Dracula's reincarnation rests in the marrying of a kirigami book and the digital technologies of our modern world. The ‘everyday miracle’ of the campaign is therefore rooted in making dark magic real, with its secrets hidden inside the world of kirigami, a world that is only visible via the digital lens.
Platforms: Social media (Facebook); videos; website; origami invitation letter with QR code-led video.
Central promotional image (below):
For the Awareness phase, we created social media posts for a designated Facebook page ('DraculaImmersed'). Altogether the social media is focused on the first of our immersive phases - seeing - with content setting up the mystery of what Dracula needs in order to bring himself back to life. We adopted the logic that the Short Fiction immersive format is best characterised as akin to being immersed in a great book, hence our captions are based on the evocative language of the Dracula novel, notably quotes that hint at the campaign's central mystery.
For the Consideration phase, we built www.the-invited.co.uk, a new website designed to continue to guide audiences through an immersive journey. The website is structured according our four immersive phases - see, reveal, enter, and become. As well as featuring a trailer, visitors are invited to learn about the experience by delving into the secrets of Dracula's reincarnation, with hidden text, animations, QR codes and riddles all revealing parts of the Dracula myth. Below is the trailer we produced for the experience, as well as some of the content created for www.the-invited.co.uk.
For the Decision phase, we produced a mixed-media invitation letter, taking the form of an origami bat-like sleeve, inside which is a card featuring a QR code that opens a video, itself written as if by Dracula himself.
The video solves the campaign's central mystery, revealing that Dracula's reincarnation rests on the marrying of an old kirigami book with new digital technology. These materials focus on the final two stages of our immersive journey - entering and becoming.
SATISFACTION & LOYALTY PHASE
For the Satisfaction & Loyalty phase, we produced post-experience promotional content that keeps audiences feeling immersed in The Invited after the experience has ended. Applying our after-effect principles of mood, memory and merging, firstly a thank-you video bottles the mood-change of The Invited in a single image, with the experience's AR assets bleeding into our world. (NB. This image is owned by Stefan Koidl). Secondly, an AR filter rekindles the audience's memory of The Invited by allowing them to go inside its kirigami world. Finally, postcards blend the world of The Invited with Anagram's Goliath in the aim of guiding the audience of the former towards the world of the latter.
audience evaluation: What we did
In order to evaluate what worked about our promotion and what was less effective, we tested it on over 4500 people.
The evaluation was completed (i) via boosted Facebook posts for our social media content, tracking which kinds of images encouraged people to click through to the main website, and (ii) via an online survey, which evaluated three key questions:
Which of our Facebook videos, each experimenting with different research-informed ideas of how best to communicate AR, were clicked the most? In particular, how did engagement with certain kinds of posts correlate with different demographics?
Based only on engaging with The Invited website, to what extent were respondents clear about what The Invited actually is, and specifically that it is an AR based experience based on a kirigami book?
What is the relationship between respondents' current engagement levels with VR/AR technologies, their professional industry backgrounds, and the extent to which our promotional content primed their interest in The Invited?
Respondents were all based across the UK, of various ages (16-75+), an equal mix of male (48%) and female (52%), from a range of different professional backgrounds, and with very different levels of familiarity with immersive technologies.
audience evaluation: What we found
Overall, the 55-64s were by far the most engaged demographic in terms of clicking on our Facebook posts, which reinforces the perceived sector trend that AR experiences are most commonly consumed outside of the home by audiences over the age of 25. In fact, the posts that provided a more literal, explicit look at the kirigami book itself (i.e. Posts 9 and 10, which minimise AR) were engaged with exclusively by people over 45, with 50% over 65.
However, the use of animated elements, filters and digital layering techniques helped to skew the appeal towards younger and more diverse age ranges, albeit mostly to men. The only post not to use these digital techniques that appealed more to women was Post 6 (the video of the woman 'trapped' inside the kirigami castle). Meanwhile, static images generally failed to appeal to audiences under 45, perhaps due to their black and white nature, although these images did successfully engage both genders equally.
Posts 2 and 6 were the most clicked overall, and while the former skewed towards men and the latter towards women, these two posts both engaged a diverse age range. As such, for our central promotional image we opted to put these two images together, and when this new image was advertised, it had an 18% click rate, with the demographic breakdown as follows: 18-24s (18%), 25-34 (10%), 35-44s (16%), 45-54s (12%), 55-64s (36%), and 65+(8%). Altogether, 54% of these engagements were from men and 46% were women.