Augmented Reality, Your Brand and Consumer Engagement

Augmented Reality as a technology is still in its infancy, yet it has been “around” for quite a few years.  When it made the leap to smart phones from desktops it created a unique opportunity to engage people on the go.  Thankfully the proliferation of smart phones has made more people aware of the technology and we are seeing them use it for entertainment, education and all around added value. 

Recently, brands have jumped into the game and have been quick to align the technology with their message for deeper connections to their consumers.  This past holiday Starbucks offered up unique holiday greetings that came alive via their cups.  Mazda leverage the technology to introduce new products while leveraging existing brand material, movie studios have launched location-based experiences and magazines have found innovative ways to make their pages come alive. 

This is good news for brands and consumers and for us as a company on the forefront of the technology.

There are numerous players in the development community with innovative AR platforms.  Leaders like Layar and Metaio have set the benchmark, while others like String, Wikitude, Total Immersion and Blip’r are wowing us with innovation.  Device manufacturers are getting into the game by preloading software on their phones making it that much easier for the rest of us.  AR as a platform in many ways is another delivery mechanism for getting your story across.  Think of the platforms as networks like HBO or Starz where content developers can deploy the next cool interaction. 

As a creative technology company we are constantly looking to elevate our game.  We are always creating new ways to use technology to build on a story, to create a connection with the consumer that has context.  We have built stand-alone AR applications and AR brand channels that live in AR browsers like Layar and Junaio.  In each case we looked at the challenge and executed a creative solution that would achieve the goals of our client and make sense with the technology.  As we have discovered, no platform is without limitations and AR itself has (surmountable) challenges including user education.  (It’s great to have a cool piece of tech, but if you can’t fire your phaser chances are your not going to get beamed back up.)

When launching an AR campaign you have to think of the dialogue around the experience.  How you convey the message that you have a unique offering is paramount.  We use social media and traditional media as integral components of all our AR efforts.  We look to educate the user on how to use the technology while expressing why they should.  Lastly, we leverage the technology in a sharable manner to get the greatest reach and impact beyond the user themself.  It’s cool; so let them talk about it and in the process your brand.

Recently, we partnered with digital agency, Moroch, on an AR campaign for McDonald’s and Coke.  To execute the creative concept developed by Moroch we worked to adapt materials from an on-air campaign into a compelling AR experience. 

To begin the process we had numerous discussions to develop the AR strategy.  It is important to look at your audience, your target demographic and the location(s) where you will be executing the campaign.  One of the first hurdles we faced was deciding on the platform on which to launch our process.  Ultimately, we decided on building a custom user experience on the architecture of the String platform.  What is great about String is it’s dependability with scan-ability and tracking.  Tracking was key to the unique AR experience and we wanted to make sure that when a user launched the experience they could get right into it and have fun.

Once we knew we could build what we needed it really came down to collaborating closely with Moroch to execute the strategy.  They provided the assets we needed to build from.  We took the assets and began work and ultimately have created what we think is a great user experience for this campaign and beyond.

With the architecture built there are many ways that we can continue to expand on the creative and offer unique social forward solutions for the brands moving forward.  AR is great in this way.  As momentum continues and more people use it and more brands use it intelligently, we will truly create memorable experiences for all.

 

– Chris Valentino

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AR! Some days I feel like a pirate.

by Chris Valentino, Partner/ECD

Jonny

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 find.copan.ie) 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!