AR! Some days I feel like a pirate.

by Chris Valentino, Partner/ECD


Aaarrrrrr! Okay, let me explain. AR has been the buzz word around the office for some time now. When people ask what we are talking about “AR” rolls off the tongue as eloquently as a quesadilla on Cinco de Mayo. Of course, AR is not a word in the traditional sense. So let’s think of it as a technological piece of the big consumer puzzle. I am sure by now most of you have heard of it, some may have played with it and others have asked “Jane, what is this crazy thing?”. AR is short for Augmented Reality which Wikipedia defines as “a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input.” I am sure that cleared up things for you, but to truly understand AR you have to see it in action.

Like any new technology there are bound to be a lot of questions and a short list of trailblazers willing to risk using it for the sake of making noise. For us, AR is very exciting for a number of reasons. One reason is that we jumped into the playing field early to both test the waters and see what was capable from a creative and technological standpoint. Another reason is that it gives users control over their “ad-vironment” (my other buzz word). With AR we have the ability to set new creative benchmarks. The more we talk with businesses and brands the more we visualize possibilities. Industries can take advantage of this technology in ways that are both unique to their brands and services and creatively informative for their consumers. We know a good deal about this having had quick success with a location based scavenger hunt which became one of Layar’s (the big player in the AR community) favorite apps of last year. (You can see an overview on our site for Most recently we launched a campaign with Mazda to feature their new Mazda2. In both we utilized traditional print advertising and social media marketing to drive and educate the consumer. In short we leveraged key components of the technology and available platforms to present the best marketing plan for the individual brands.

New technology also means new challenges. Perhaps the biggest challenge for AR is consumer and client education. There are other challenges for brands to effectively integrate AR into their marketing campaigns or as a standalone effort. For one your target audience needs a smart phone or camera enabled device such as a laptop, desktop or tablet. Two, they need to download and install an AR browser application such as Layar, Junaio, Wheremark, Wikitude or mTrip (mobile carriers and device manufacturers are now starting to preinstall which is great for the long run, for example LG is poised to support Wikitude on the 3D AR home front very soon). Three, they need to open a specific brand page for your project to launch your awesome campaign that we created just for you.

Now, that may seem like a lot, but let’s look at the benefits Swiss watchmaker Tissot launched an incredibly successful AR campaign wherein users could virtually try on any watch from their home computer. The user simply placed a paper watch on their wrist and held it in front of their computer camera; they could then simply select any style and watch it appear on their wrist. The online campaign soon transitioned to their retail store and the benefits yielded a boost in overall sales. You can find the video demo on YouTube easily enough.

Perhaps the most recent and talked about AR campaign has been for Lynx deodorant (we know the Unilever company as AXE here). Their innovative idea was the Angel Ambush at London’s Victoria Station. As commuters walked past a specific (marked) spot they suddenly saw themselves on a large video screen by the departure display. It was there they discovered they were not alone. An augmented reality angel was right beside them stirring a commuter commotion and consequently a viral sensation on YouTube.

AR has also made its way to other brands and products such as trading cards, retail shops, milk cartons, fashion and of course video games. Enthusiasts have found ways to create their own augmented reality applications (such as AR Tatoos) for devices such as the Nintendo 3DS. Esquire magazine even launched a Robert Downey Jr driven AR issue.

As much as tablets signaled a change in traditional publishing, AR is signaling a change in the static promotion. Any print ad can be transformed to offer a consumer a whole new world of information and brand awareness that can move with them. With the ever increasing penetration of smartphones technology is within reach of most anyone (and at the very least the most common target demos). We are limited only by our creativity and strategy for reaching the consumer audience.

As with any campaign though you have to look at the big picture which includes the marketing plan, the design and the target audience. It is a good idea to market your efforts in areas that will drum up interest and discussion. Hit your facebook and twitter fans, let them know how awesome you are. Get it in front of the tech blogs if you are breaking new ground. Get it on the park benches, bus stops and billboards.

It goes without saying that this technology will continue to evolve and that awareness will continue to grow furthering my hope that I no longer sound like a pirate to passersby. AR!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s