How BBC and HBO Are Using Interactive AR Fantasy to Promote His Dark Materials

The immersive tech is a natural fit for the dimension-hopping fantasy series

The network's latest tool allows Snapchat users to superimpose settings from the show. BBC Creative

As BBC One’s and HBO’s His Dark Materials ramp up the inter-dimensional travel plot-lines in its new second season, the broadcaster’s in-house creative agency is turning to augmented reality to best represent the fantasy series’ complexities.

BBC Creative launched a new Snapchat lens this week that allows users in the United Kingdom to open a superimposed portal into a parallel universe setting from the show and explore it via their phone camera. The CGI surroundings feature Italian architecture, creepy soul-stealing ghosts known as “spectres” and several plot-specific Easter eggs scattered throughout.

Based on the young-adult novel trilogy by Philip Pullman, His Dark Materials takes place across several such dimensions and involves intricate concepts like “daemons”–talking animal companions that are manifestations of the souls of certain characters–that can be hard to communicate with traditional marketing tools.

HBO—the show’s U.S. distributor—also tapped AR to depict that particular element of the fantasy world with an app launched last month that lets users build their own daemon creature through a personality test. The superimposed animal will then guide users through fitness routines and other activities, encourage self-care exercises and synchronize with Apple Health and Spotify.

His Dark Materials isn’t the only show getting a mixed-reality promotional treatment as the pandemic makes physical marketing activations difficult or impossible. Prime Video previously launched an AR-based shooter game to plug the latest season of its superhero series The Boys, while HBO held a virtual reality extravaganza for its horror drama series Lovecraft Country.

This isn’t the first time the producers behind the show have turned to AR–or other outside-the-box advertising strategies–however. HBO also ran a Snapchat lens last year that let people pose with animals from the show and BBC Creative erected a billboard of a polar bear character that breathed real steam.

His Dark Materials airs every Sunday night on BBC One and BBC’s streaming service and every Monday night on HBO and HBO Max.

@patrickkulp Patrick Kulp is an emerging tech reporter at Adweek.