In the new horror movie Insidious: Chapter 3, a girl stuck in bed is eager for contact with the outside world. She's even willing to chat with you right now.
Thanks to a promotion from film studio Focus Features and the messaging app Kik, fans can talk to a bot version of the movie's main character, Quinn Brenner.
Insidious is targeting Kik users with Promoted Chats, which let them opt in to receiving the movie's marketing messages. Users are then asked if they want to text with Quinn, who is recovering from an accident that left her with two broken legs.
The story and experience were built by a marketing technology startup called Massively, which hopes to bring any number of fictional characters to life through text messaging.
"We've been doing work with brands and also with movie studios about getting people excited about movie characters, and people are actually chatting with characters," said Russell Ward, svp of marketing and business development at Massively's parent company House of Cool. "It feels natural. It's not a real person but we try to make it as close as possible. You say whatever you want and she responds accordingly."
Insidious represents the first time that Kik and Massively are trying out this technology.
The user gets to text Quinn in a conversation that starts off normal but becomes increasingly intense, and the messaging takes place over about two days, with her reaching out several times. Each time, her situation appears more dire, as she's dealing with an apparent haunting.
(You can try it yourself at the bottom of this post, or run through a live preview on Massively's site.
Of course, the fact that the consumer is messaging with a bot is sometimes quite evident, and Ward said some people do call out that fact. It's a reaction Kik has become accustomed to with other brands employing its chat bots to simply message with users.
The marketers are trying to come up with clever ways to automatically respond to the people who react negatively. "A huge part of the enjoyment is for brands to anticipate responses and answer in an appropriate way," said Paul Gray, Kik's product strategist.
Bot marketing is a growing phenomenon on messaging apps where brands have to communicate one on one with thousands of consumers. For instance, on Twitter, marketing responses more often are coming from brands' automated representatives trying to mimic as human a tone as possible.
During SXSW, a bot on Tinder similarly messaged with daters who thought it was potentially a real match only to find out it was a movie character promoting Ex Machina.
"Massively's intention isn't to deceive or trick people," Ward said.
There are more than 60 brands using promoted products on Kik, which has been downloaded more than 200 million times.
You can try chatting with Quinn for yourself below: