Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are ditching their nunchucks and katana swords for smartphones.
To promote the upcoming film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, Paramount Pictures is launching a full-blown Kik campaign centered around turning the four pizza-chomping, slang-slinging, crime-fighting sewer heroes from New York City into chatbots.
The messaging app—popular with users not old enough to have been alive when the original Ninja Turtles debuted—has a new bot in the Bot Shop made in the likeness of Michelangelo. After chatting with "Mikey" for a little while about his favorite topic (pizza), the turtle with the orange bandana then throws you over via a link to fellow ninja turtle bot: the science-centric Donatello.
Along the way, the conversation gets tossed back and forth among all four turtles, and users get GIFs and links to the trailer for the new movie set to debut June 3. The bot was built by Massively, which worked with scriptwriters and content creators to make sure they kept the language true to each character.
Quotes from Mikey—whose username is Mikey.PartyDude—include life lessons centered around pizza with wisdom such as "Pizza, like revenge, is a dish best served cold." However, Donatello takes a more scientific approach to describing dough.
"The main way that flavour is delivered to our tastebuds is by bonding with soluble fat!" he says. "Cheese has a huge variety of soluble fats which all melt at different temperatures, so the longer you leave it the more fats have a chance to melt and bond with flavours!"
Along with the bots, users can send a number of turtle-branded GIFs and earn Kik Points—the platform's rewards program—for watching the movie's trailer. Points can then be redeemed for turtle-themed Smileys, Kik's equivalent of emojis. There's even a built-in Kik microsite with additional information about the film and the characters.
According to Paul Gray, Kik's director of platform services, this is the first time a campaign has utilized all brand capabilities on the Kik platform. He likened the bots to a choose-your-own-adventure book.
"There aren't many platforms when you can chat to a character from a movie and have it feel fun and authentic," Gray said. "And when it's a fictional character and not an actual person, it's fine because it kind of feels like he exists like you're actually talking to him."
Kik has promoted other movies as well. Last year, it worked with film studio Focus Features on a chatbot for the main character in the horror movie Insidious: Chapter 3. A few months later, it developed another chatbot for Twentieth Century Fox for The Maze Runner, letting fans talk to bots while walking through a series of GIF-based challenges.
"The context overall is that the studio wants to reach teens, so Kik is logical for that purpose," Gray said. "I think it's also finding really creative ways to do that. When you consider traditional tools available to studios—ads, preroll and so on—you just have to look at the rate of ad blocking that people have."
Since launching its Bot Shop last month, Kik has increased the number of bots from around a dozen to about 50. Another 6,000 created by various developers are being tested outside of the Bot Shop. However, the selection of bots is still fairly limited. The originals—brands like H&M, Sephora, Vine and The Weather Channel—are still the main brand standouts.