Hudlin Entertainment

Ally and DC leverage AR at SXSW to boost diverse storytelling in comics

Sara Karlovitch | Marketing Dive

A picture containing text
Description automatically generated

Courtesy of DC Comics

Dive Brief:

  • DC Comics and its parent company WarnerMedia partnered with Ally Financial to launch an augmented reality (AR) experience, known as Milestone ARchives, where users attending South By Southwest (SXSW) can virtually meet and interact with superheros Static, Hardware and those from Icon & Rocket, per information shared with Marketing Dive.
  • Bridging in-person experiences with AR via Snapchat, visitors at the pop-up can use the social media app to explore the characters’ backstories through filters and interactive games.
  • The activation is part of a broader creator-focused initiative among DC Comics, WarnerMedia and Ally, to train and create opportunities for Black and diverse storytellers in the comic industry, according to a press release. The initiative marks a greater focus on creators for Ally. The financial company has produced several mobile marketing efforts in the past that employ AR and creators.

Dive Insights:

The experiential activation at SXSW is an attempt by Ally to reach younger audiences through AR technology that employs a popular social media app, which consumers may already be familiar with. The activation reaches out to younger audiences through the combination of superheros and AR technology while positioning the financial services company as socially conscious.

Comic books, once considered a dying industry, have made a remarkable comeback. In 2020, sales of comic books reached an all-time high of $1.28 billion, up 6% from the previous year. DC Comics remains the second largest player in the game, capturing 29.29% of the market. It is trumped only by Marvel Comics, which holds 40.20% of the market.

Alongside the tech-driven activation at SXSW, the campaign is supported with a video, titled “Superfan,” that features a conversation between Denys Cowan, co-founder of Milestone Media, Feon Cooper and Kareem Burton, co-owners of Black Star Collectibles — which is the first Black-owned pop culture collectibles store in Carson, California. The conversation centers on the lack of Black representation in the comic book space in the 1990s and how Milestone Media ignited the idea for the collectibles store.

The next installment in the series, “The Power of Representation,” highlights how Ally is focusing on equity and inclusion both within and outside of the organization. The vignette was made in partnership with Courageous Studios.

“Ally is focused on improving financial literacy, economic mobility and access to opportunities and products that help all communities gain financial stability and independence,” Andrea Brimmer, Ally’s chief marketing and public relations officer, said in emailed comments. “It is critical that our marketing efforts further this cause, and we believe our collaboration with DC, Milestone Media and WarnerMedia allows us to build upon our efforts for lasting social impact that directly reaches Black and Hispanic communities with generation-changing opportunities.”

The partnership between DC and Ally is the latest attempt by the financial services company to integrate itself into popular culture through mobile tech and social media creators. Previous initiatives have included Twitch partnerships, an interactive AR Super Bowl game and an effort to turn American cities into virtual “Monopoly” boards. AR experiences are a mainstay of the company’s advertising profile, with DC being the last in this strategy.