Fuseit Eyes Enhanced Consumer Engagement With Augmented Reality

Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog is the big hit of the coronavirus pandemic.

The animated feature is one of a handful of high-profile titles that received an early digital release, at a premium price, at the end of March.

It was subsequently released through traditional digital channels, as well as Blu-ray Disc and DVD, and has held onto the top spot on the weekly physical media sales charts, published by NPD VideoScan, for five weeks.

One of the more interesting aspects of Paramount’s marketing campaign for the film, based on the popular video game franchise, was an app that, through augmented reality technology, allowed users to create their own videos with characters and other elements from the film, and then post the results on social media.

The result was a flurry of TikTok videos in which fans appeared to “dance” or otherwise interact with Sonic — including one, with more than 125,000 likes, in which Sonic keeps appearing on a girl gamer’s Fortnite screen until she finally says, “All right, Sonic, you win — I’ll watch your movie.”  In all, the campaign reached tens of millions of consumers in the United States in a few short weeks.

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The augmented reality (AR) component of the Sonic campaign is the work of a company called Fuseit, whose patented AR platform specializes in brand content creation.

Partnering with clients that range from Coca-Cola to Old Spice/Procter & Gamble to the major Hollywood studios, the company’s AR technology lets anyone create a professional-looking video with whatever image or icon the client brand chooses — all in real-time, with just one click.

Liat Sade-Sternberg

Fuseit was launched in 2017 by Liat Sade-Sternberg, an Israeli businesswoman and entrepreneur who now lives in Los Angeles. Prior to launching the company, Sade-Sternberg was the first Israeli woman to win MIDEMLAB, the leading startup competition of the music industry. She also served as the VP of sales and marketing at Babylon, an Israeli public company that provides translation software.

“The concept behind Fuseit is to utilize content in innovative new ways to significantly increase consumer awareness and fan engagement with brands, and generate a solid ROI,” Sade-Sternberg says. “While current consumer engagement on social platforms has sagged to 1% or less, we understand that advertisement methods must change, and augmented reality can boost advertiser results 50% or more while they gain a deeper engagement with their consumers/fans.”

Fuseit’s AR technology has been previously utilized by Warner Bros. to promote the theatrical releases of The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part and Godzilla: King of the Monsters.

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“It really comes from an understanding that marketing and social media have changed, and will continue to change, rapidly, and so much of the advertising is really not working,” Sade-Sternberg says. “Marketers are spending more and more money on Facebook and Instagram and other social platforms, but they’re getting less and less impactful results than they used to. Consumers desire real engagement. These days, when brands are boycotting Facebook ads, adopting digital innovations such as Fuseit is more important than ever.”

She also believes Fuseit’s technology is more relevant than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic since shelter-at-home orders, business closures and event cancellations have led to a steep decline in live engagement opportunities.

“If you want to really engage with your customers, and with your fans now,” Sade-Sternberg said, “the only way to do it is through augmented reality. Now you can meet consumers in their homes and on their social feeds, and do it fast, easily and cost-effectively utilizing the content the brands already have.”

Digital Change the Focus of DEW Conference

Speakers discussed changes in digital entertainment content, stars, business models and more during the Digital Entertainment World conference Feb. 4 in Marina del Rey, Calif.

Digital Media Wire founder Ned Sherman noted that in the past year the industry produced nearly 500 original scripted programs, the majority of which for the first time came from streaming services.

“There’s almost sort of an arm’s race going on in this space,” he said, noting the billions being spent on programming by Netflix and other streaming services.

Speakers discussed the advantages and disadvantages of subscription streaming models (SVOD), ad-supported free streaming models (AVOD) and graduated spending models, such as Hulu’s, which has both ad-supported and ad-free services.

(L-R) Forbes’ Dawn Chmielewski, Pluto TV’s Tom Ryan, Tasty’s Ashley McCollum and Vertical Networks’ Jesus Chavez.

Tom Ryan, co-founder and CEO of Pluto TV, extolled the virtues of free AVOD and his company’s pending acquisition by Viacom, announced last month.

“They have world class brands, well-known programming. They’ve got advanced advertising capabilities, and they are a global company,” he said, noting Viacom will help Pluto TV expand internationally.

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The acquisition will “accelerate what we’ve already built,” he said. Pluto TV is “the leading free streaming television service in America,” with 12 million monthly users and 100 channels, he said.

Free AVOD fills an important need as “there has been a certain amount of subscription fatigue,” he said.

“The problem comes down to payment,” he said. “There’s only so many services that people will pay for.”

He mentioned a survey by Ampere that found the average SVOD home subscribes to 2.8 streaming services.

“You have Netflix and Amazon Prime, and everybody else fighting for that 0.8,” he said.

He said that, rather than creating channels that match those on traditional cable,

“we will create new channels that include content from Viacom.”

“I think AVOD content has been a big theme to start out this year,” said Ellation’s Eric Berman in “The Future of the Television Business” panel.

“There’s a big conundrum in the AVOD model,” said Popsugar Studios’ David Grant on the same panel. “Somehow the content has to be created.”

Viacom is buying Pluto TV, but the AVOD service is “not funding that content,” he noted.

“When is the AVOD system going to be able to fund the creation of television-sized content?” he asked.

The very nature of content is undergoing a transformation, speakers noted. Digital content isn’t constrained by the need to fill a half-hour sitcom slot or hour-long drama. It also can explore niche subjects.

As opposed to globalization, “for me the greatest power of digital is actually localization,” noted keynote speaker Gerrit Meier of the Red Bull Media Network, which creates programming around sports such as surfing and mountain biking, among other subjects. Through the internet, local communities around the world can find a voice, exposing sports “that I have never heard of before,” he said.

“Those are all stories that should be told,” he said.

Content, too, can morph to suit a mobile audience, noted Jesus Chavez, CEO of Vertical Networks.

In designing mobile content, “I’m competing with everything that’s on a person’s phone,” he said. It must be engrossing in the mobile space, he noted.

Digital stars, too, have a new style. They exude authenticity and communicate more closely with their audiences.

“We are always looking to populate our projects with people who have relevance in the social media space,” said Shelley Zimmerman, co-head of digital media company Awesomeness (owned by Viacom).

Studio71’s Dan Weinstein noted that the new digital stars are more relatable, as opposed to the “untouchable” movie stars.

Speakers also discussed augmented and virtual reality.

Hilary Hoffman, EVP, global marketing, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, detailed a Jurassic World campaign that used augmented reality to allow Facebook users to view dinosaurs that jumped out at them at retail and at home. She said the campaign was much more successful than anticipated, but that monetizing AR will require more ease of use.

“Right now, it’s more promotional,” she said, but it “has so much great potential.”

AT&T’s John Donovan to Deliver Keynote on 5G Opportunities at CES

AT&T Communications CEO John Donovan will lead a keynote session titled “New Frontiers in Mobile” at CES 2019, the Consumer Technology Association announced.

Donovan will join MediaLink Chairman and CEO Michael Kassan to discuss opportunities for 5G, the next generation technology for mobile.

Owned and produced by CTA, CES 2019 takes place Jan. 8-11 in Las Vegas. The keynote will begin at 2 p.m. Jan. 9 at the Park Theater, MGM Park.

Presented by MediaLink, the keynote will explore how 5G will open up opportunities for robotic manufacturing, AR/VR and mixed reality, sporting experiences and public safety, among other industries. After Donovan’s talk, a panel of industry executives will discuss how global companies are developing marketing strategies to best engage consumers in this mobile, data-driven world. Confirmed keynote panelists include National Geographic CMO Jill Cress, Deloitte Digital CMO Alicia Hatch, Magic Leap CPO Omar Khan, Adobe CMO Ann Lewnes, The Stagwell Group president and managing partner Mark Penn, and Ascential Events president and Cannes Lions chairman Phil Thomas.

“AT&T is a leader in the next-generation of connected mobility that will impact every aspect of our lives, and 5G is the platform that will enable that transformation,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, CTA, in a statement. “We are excited to have John Donovan and Michael Kassan lead this powerful CES keynote that will delve into the new world of 5G innovation and the next wave of connectivity.”

Donovan is responsible for the bulk of AT&T’s global telecommunications and U.S. video services businesses, including its Business, Mobility and Entertainment, and Technology & Operations groups, according to a CTA press release. Previously, Donovan served as chief strategy officer and group president, AT&T Technology and Operations, where he led strategic planning for the company overall.

Kassan founded MediaLink in 2003, a strategic advisory firm serving companies at the intersection of media, marketing, advertising, technology, entertainment and finance.

Universal Unleashes AR Experience With Facebook to Promote ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’

To mark the global 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD release of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment has partnered with Facebook and Messenger to unleash sharable in-store and in-home augmented reality experiences showcasing the film’s dinosaurs.

The AR experiences featuring different dinosaurs from the film will debut Sept. 18 timed to the film’s North American home entertainment launch before rolling out around the world.

It is the first integrated AR experience across the Facebook family of apps — specifically Facebook and Messenger — according to a Universal press release.

“Just as Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom expertly transports viewers into an immersive world of discovery and wonder, the new AR offerings in-store and in-home serve to effectively extend that excitement and innovation to our global home entertainment release,” said Hilary Hoffman, EVP, marketing, UPHE. “We are thrilled to have a world-class partner in Facebook to help power these engaging AR experiences and are sure they will captivate and delight Jurassic fans of all ages.”

On the day of the release, participating retailers across 18 countries will showcase, for a limited time, the Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom in-store displays that will include instructions on how to trigger an AR experience. Shoppers scan a special QR code to launch the sharable AR effect that places the Indoraptor directly in their path. In the U.S. alone, the experience spans more than 17,000 stores across multiple national retail and grocery chains, according to the release.

The in-home experience is activated off of an insert in the product packaging using the Messenger camera. The experience unveils an interactive, baby version of the film’s Velociraptor hero, Blue. The animated Baby Blue can be placed in any environment, and images and video of her can be captured and shared with friends.

Both the in-store and in-home experiences are compatible with iOS and Android devices. Users should utilize the latest version of the Facebook and Messenger apps, according to the release.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the second installment in the dinosaur series reboot, has generated nearly $1.3 billion at the worldwide box office to date. Executive produced by Steven Spielberg and Colin Trevorrow, the film stars Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard.

DEG Speakers Confront New Reality: AR Shows Promise, VR ‘Going to Take a While’

Virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality have been the new buzzwords in the home entertainment business for the past few years, but the hype is starting to meet reality (the real one) when it comes to the money-making prospects for these new formats in the entertainment realm.

That was the consensus at the “Next Up: Alternate Realities in Home Entertainment: VR, MR, AR” conference, presented by DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.

“The challenge from my perspective is not the technology, but how you apply that technology,” said Mike Dunn, DEG chair and president, product strategy and consumer business development, 20th Century Fox.

Still, these new formats are here to stay, and the industry must begin to adjust, noted DEG president and CEO Amy Jo Smith.

“It’s not temporary,” she said. “It’s going to be permanent.”

“The near term is not going to be as dramatic as the long term,” said keynote speaker and author Charlie Fink. “We get very excited when we discover something new, but for it to become a product, it takes a long time.”

Fink noted, “AR [especially mobile] is hot right now, and VR is not so hot.”

“Virtual and augmented reality have nothing to do with each other,” he said. “They are not the same.”

What makes AR, which superimposes data and other content on real video, so exciting, he said, is that “the world is going to be painted with data.”

“Who’s going to be doing the painting?” he said, noting that it is an opportunity for IP owners.

Virtual reality requires an immersive experience that is “going to take a while,” he said. Disneyland, consumers being inside a movie, is an early attempt at VR, he said.

“Although I loved Ready Player One [the Steven Spielberg blockbuster about VR], I note that it takes place in 2045,” said Fink about VR. “I would say, ‘Don’t hold your breath. It’s going to take a while for VR to become as big as AR. That said, when you can walk around in the movie, it will be mind-blowing and everybody will do it.’”

Still, it’s all in the developmental stage, as many speakers acknowledged.

Location-based VR, meaning spaces at malls, etc., where consumers can experience VR, is the leading edge of the VR business, speakers said.

“It’s also bringing so many more people to experience VR, hopefully getting over the hurdles of understanding what it means and some of the scariness of getting the headset for the first time and working out that human interaction as you are first experiencing it and so our hope is certainly that the LBE market will not only be a business in and of itself but also encourage and support the home market,” said Jessica Schell, EVP and GM, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

“These arcades that are popping up, for us it’s a secondary licensing opportunity for the home entertainment product that we are creating,” said Brendan Handler, SVP and GM, virtual reality at FoxNext. Fox has produced VR projects around its ‘Alien’ and ‘Planet of the Apes’ properties.

“Ultimately, it’s going to come down to content,” he said. “It’s going to have to be breakthrough content.”

It’s also the practical aspect of VR, noted Schell.

“Content’s critical but you have to have great devices to be able to experience the content,” she said. “And to really make that accessible you’ve got to have a low price point, you have to have glasses that people can wear for a long time and watch longer form content without getting tired, without getting sick, you have to have it untethered so people can walk around, wireless, long battery life without warming up your face so much.”

The consensus was VR, AR, MR are still a work in progress.

In a First, Sony and Snapchat Employ Augmented Reality With ‘Jumanji’ Release

With the March 20 release of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungleon 4K UHD Blu-ray Disc, Blu-ray Disc and DVD, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is bringing the jungle to life for fans with an augmented reality experience through Snapchat.

In the first of its kind for a home entertainment release, when consumers purchase a copy of the film on disc at any retailer and scan the Snapcode on the front, the packaging elements will start to move, making their way across the retail environment and encouraging people to follow it with their camera phone. Once scanned through the app, users can explore a 360 jungle with a hippo jump-scare and a message from Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson) telling consumers that the next adventure lies inside the packaging. Upon opening the packaging, consumers can scan the insert inside the box which will trigger a second experience that brings the characters from Jumanji to life.

“Given the incredible box office success with Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, we are continuing the consumer excitement into the home entertainment window by partnering with Snapchat in this groundbreaking AR packaging experience to drive in-store retail engagement and physical product purchase, while giving consumers a new way to interact with the Blu-ray and DVD and share their experience.” said Nicole Longo, Sony director of marketing.

“Much like they reimagined Jumanji itself, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has thoughtfully reframed AR marketing to drive sales for their home entertainment release,” said Jeff Miller, head of creative strategy, Snap. “Their Snapchat lenses set a new bar for contextual augmented realityintegration with physical packaging.”

In addition to having the Snapcodes on the front of the product, the codes will also be on in-store retail signage and displays. Sony also will employ national TV spots, digital marketing, social media, radio and on-platform ads on Snapchat to support the AR effort.

The film earned more than $400 million at the box office.