To celebrate the launch of M&M’S Caramel, Mars, Inc. did a one-day M&M’S takeover of Times Square in New York City. During the May activation, fans with mobile phones could download the Blippar app on Android and iOS phones and unlock the M&M’S ARcade through Times Square billboards. The app includes a suite of retro-inspired augmented reality games featuring M&M’S characters and candies and is available for anyone to play.

Michelle Deignan, senior brand manager for the M&M’S brand, told AListDaily that the introduction of M&M’S Caramel Chocolate Candies marked one of the company’s biggest product innovations ever, so they needed to launch it in an innovative way. It took years to develop the technology and machines required to get the soft caramel ingredient into the M&M’S brand’s signature hard candy shell.

“We explored augmented reality technology to create the first-ever M&M’S ARcade gaming experience,” Deignan said. “Much like the traditional caramel flavor, the M&M’S ARcade taps into a nostalgic feeling and brings back memories of a classic old-school arcade in a fun, unexpected way.”

In partnership with Blippar, the brand created three vintage arcade games—Caramel Cannon, Caramel Crawl and Square Smash—that were inspired by M&M’S Caramel and are featured on the home screen of the M&M’S ARcade experience.

The objective of the Caramel Cannon game is to use the arrows to move the cannon left and right to avoid the falling caramel square and tap the center button to shoot them. Once a caramel square has been shot by the cannon, it will splash on impact.

When playing Caramel Crawl, the player presses the arrows to move around the space until they hit a wall. The user needs to collect Caramel characters and the more they collect, the longer the snake extends. When the Caramel character is collected, he bursts into a quick cartoon animation.

For Square Smash, the player needs to smash as many caramels as fast as they fall from the sky before they hit the ground. They use their fingers to hit the caramels while avoiding any M&M’S characters, which will result in a loss of 10 points.

“We’ll continue to educate fans about the gaming opportunity through social media content and promotional events,” Deignan said.

Deignan explained how the M&M’S brand has always been focused on entertaining fans through moments of fun. With the rise in popularity of gaming, especially on mobile devices, she thought that a nostalgic gaming experience focused on M&M’S Caramel would give the brand an opportunity to reach both new and existing fans while raising awareness for the new product at launch.

“The success of Pokemon GO has certainly increased mainstream awareness for augmented reality experiences, but the technology is still in its infancy,” Deignan explained. “We established a partnership with Blippar, since it gave us access to a built-in user base that has adopted the innovative technology and we think the M&M’S ARcade activation gave us an opportunity to engage fans in a fun, new way.”

While the Times Square activation gave thousands of fans the opportunity to use their phone to turn static Times Square billboards into vintage arcade game experiences, the Blippar games will connect with a much broader audience. M&M’S fans can access the games through the Blippar app by holding their phone or device up to a package of M&M’S Caramel. The national campaign will also be supported with TV commercials, print, digital and large-scale outdoor advertising executions.

The brand has been actively using tech in its promotions. Earlier this year, M&M’S kicked off a Bite-Size Beats  program, the first ever user-generated TV ad for the brand, which mixed the M&M’S Spokescandies with Incredibox beatbox technology to give fans the opportunity to get creative and share their own beat. The brand also partnered with art-fashion-media icon VISIONAIRE to release a virtual reality interactive film in collaboration with contemporary artist KAWS. The film is available to view in virtual reality and on YouTube. Last year, in celebration of the brand’s 75th anniversary, M&M’S also used virtual reality technology to give fans an inside look at the “residences” of the six spokescandies.