Netflix went old-school with a twist, running three ads for Starcourt Mall, the hangout mecca in Stranger Things season three. The print ads, featured prominently in The New York Times, are activated with Google Lens for a more immersive, AR experience.

Netflix upped the ad game for Stranger Things in the July 11th print edition of the New York Times. The print ad, featuring iconic, brightly-colored ’80s styling, went deeper than the printed word. Readers who applied Google Lens over the paper got several augmented reality (AR) snippets of scenes from the fictional mall which is central to the plot of season three. 

In a Google blog post, the company explained, “It’s 1985 in Hawkins, Indiana, and summer’s heating up. School’s out and the newly opened Starcourt Mall is center stage. Romance blossoms and complicates the group’s dynamic, and they’ll have to figure out how to grow up without growing apart. Meanwhile, danger still looms beneath the surface in Hawkins. For those adventurous enough to look beneath the surface, they’re bound to find a lot more than they bargained for.” 

Just like most of the other prominent Stranger Things season three brand activations, the ads have the nostalgic ‘80s feel to them, complementing the aesthetic of the show, and they certainly look perfectly strange in the contemporary newspaper with the faded colors, neon special effects and outdated hairstyles of the “models.” 

Google is reinforcing how organizations such as museums, magazines and retailers can employ Google Lens to overlay digital information on everyday objects, bringing fun and functional AR to brands and consumers.  In May 2019, the company upgraded Google Lens with new artificial intelligence (AI) features which allows it to recognize objects with a smartphone camera, like visual language translation of signs, audio reading of text, video demonstrations of recipes, etc. and is now trying to make full use of it with Netflix’s original Stranger Things providing  all the necessary hype.