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Movie Marketing Enters the Jurassic Period

Movie Marketing Enters the Jurassic Period

Steve Heisler

close-up of velociraptor

In promoting “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” one agency used new technology to bring users face-to-face with dinosaurs

The dinosaurs in the “Jurassic Park” films thrash around places we humans regard as generally dinosaur-free: laboratories, city streets, theme parks, portable toilets. The potential horror of coming face-to-face with a velociraptor has carried the franchise from the 1993 original through its latest—2018’s “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”—the series’ fifth.

In anticipation of the release of “Fallen Kingdom,” Universal Pictures and Facebook teamed up with digital agency The Mill to offer viewers the opportunity to share the screen with their own terrifying prehistoric beast. What resulted was an immersive experience that was promoted when viewers first witnessed the film’s trailer during the 2018 Super Bowl. The resulting campaign—directing users to a Facebook filter that inserted a raptor into photos and video—was nominated for a 2019 Webby Award in the category of Augmented Reality.


Augmented reality, or AR, is when graphics, images and other digital objects are placed into the world as visible through your mobile phone’s camera. In the case of The Mill’s Jurassic World filter, users logged into Facebook and enabled access to their camera, then touched the screen where they wanted a raptor to appear. This particular raptor depicted Blue, a menacing character from 2015’s “Jurassic World.” In the AR view, she is seen scanning the room and heard shrieking a deafening cry. Users could adjust her size or move her around their displayed environment.

The most recognizable example of AR’s use is arguably Pokemon Go, a mobile game in which players locate hidden Pokemon on a map based on their geographical location, then use their phone’s camera to view and “capture” the creatures.

From day one, The Mill was hit with heavy technical limitations. In order to ensure all dino-fanatics could make use of the AR filter, they had to limit the technology to two megabytes of data—not all users had the luxury of owning the latest phones. This required implementing a few shortcuts.

“We started by developing seamlessly looping motions and movements that express what we wanted to tell, story-wise,” says Pierce Gibson, creative director at The Mill. “Our artists compressed and compiled a look we were all happy with. It all feels very seamless in terms of what you get on screen.”

Pierce says it was imperative that they work with footage from the actual films so that Blue would appear as recognizable as possible. “We wanted to do something very specifically appropriate to the story of the film coming out,” he says. “The dinosaur [we animated] isn’t just some random dinosaur. It’s a specific character with distinct characteristics, and I think fans would recognize whether or not we were hitting the mark in bringing that specific thing to life.”

Once Blue was properly implemented—and wasn’t appearing inside walls or below the floor—Gibson says the team at The Mill began user testing. “The question is, how do people want to experience the encounter with this raptor?” he says. “As we all collectively tested, we realized that it’s really fun when Blue seems docile and friendly, then there’s this ‘gotcha’ moment where she jumps out and screams at you.”

These moments—occurring sporadically once Blue is situated in the frame—contributed to what senior producer Hayley Underwood-Norton dubs, “viral-ability.” On Jurassic World’s official Facebook page, users posted photos of Blue terrorizing the towns where they live or lurking behind unsuspecting family members at home. Videos show users jumping and shouting when Blue roars. “People were putting their pets or kids [in photos] and having fake interactions with Blue. It was really neat to see,” Underwood-Norton says.

The Mill doesn’t have access to many analytics as to the success of the campaign, but it noted that the Facebook filter has been used more than 1 million times to date. Universal was impressed with The Mill’s work and contracted them to create another AR experience tied to the film’s DVD release—the agency constructed cut-outs of Blue for Walmart stores to prop next to their DVD displays. When users scanned these images, the dinosaur leapt to life on their phones.

Take a look at The Mill’s photo filter for “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” for a glimpse into how augmented reality can translate into explosive real-world marketing.

Steve Heisler served as staff writer at the American Marketing Association. His work can be found in Rolling Stone, GQ, The A.V. Club and Chicago Sun-Times. He may be reached at