- Thursday, October 15th, 2009
(This article originally appeared in the WebAward October Briefing Newsletter on 10/13/09)
3 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Using Augmented Reality In Marketing And Advertising
(If you are already familiar with the basics of Augmented Reality, please skip this paragraph)
Augmented Reality is a technology that has to be seen to be believed. In its basic sense, Augmented Reality is just what it sounds like – Augmenting One’s Reality. For a more detailed definition per Wikipedia, Augmented Reality (or AR for short) is a term for a live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are merged with (or augmented by) virtual computer-generated imagery thereby creating a mixed reality. AR on a computer usually requires a webcam and a marker where a person can hold a unique marker (usually a symbol on a sheet of paper) up to the webcam and an animation will appear on the marker within the feed of the webcam. This is augmenting your ‘video reality’ by adding additional information to your live video feed. You can view examples of Augmented Reality on http://www.facebook.com/augmentedreality or alternatively, search YouTube for video examples.
Augmented Reality (AR) has quickly become the buzz word du jour for those of us in Interactive Marketing and Advertising. Like every other emerging media or technology that becomes flavor of the month, agencies and marketers are rushing to launch an AR execution to show that they’re hip and down with the latest interactive technologies. To say this is becoming a problem is an understatement. Most of the AR executions coming out lately are one-off executions that don’t seem to be part of any well thought out strategy and don’t make any sense for the brand. AR is here to stay so it’s important that brands and their agencies start looking at the utilitarian aspects of AR that can help promote their product or service in a meaningful and engaging way for the consumer.
Unfortunately, utility based AR examples are few and far between. Listed below are some recent AR initiatives that are utility focused and based upon a simple objective – using AR to solve a problem for the consumer or end user:
- AKQA launched an AR based shipping solution for the U.S. Postal Service
- This IKEA Prototype focuses on using AR markers to measure out how furniture would look in your living room
- The Webcam Social Shopper by Zugara uses AR and Motion Capture to let consumers view digital apparel on themselves as they shop online
However, these are the exceptions to the flood of recent AR executions. Most current AR examples are really nothing more than animated 3D demos that are exploiting the novelty of this new technology. As a result, the AR space is quickly becoming overcrowded and it won’t take long for the novelty of AR to wear off.
Over the next year, more consumers will be exposed to AR based initiatives, so it will be critical to rise above the current ‘gee whiz’ factor of AR and develop well thought out AR initiatives that provide a benefit or enhancement for your consumers. For AR to be effective for both your brand and your end consumer, you should be asking yourself 3 questions before getting started:
1. Is this something I can already do on my site within a normal browser?
Too often, we’ve been seeing AR executions that are AR just for the sake of using AR. Do you really need to launch a video in AR? Or a 3D asset? Too many recent AR executions are guilty of this and scream, “WHY!!!” Why are you making your consumer go through unnecessary hoops when they can just as easily view the video or 3D asset in a standard player on your website? An AR initiative should not be exempt from Best Practices online, so it’s always important to put usability before the ‘experience’. AR is already asking a lot of the consumer – that they have a webcam and, in some cases, will need to print out a marker to view the AR itself. In addition, there are AR platforms or technologies that will require an additional Internet browser plug-in or will only work in Internet Explorer so doing your research beforehand will be vital to the end consumer experience.
2. What am I trying to communicate or accomplish with AR and what is the experience I’m providing for my consumer?
Gimmicky executions of AR are not the way to go so if you are going to use AR effectively you should first outline your objectives for using AR. Are you using AR to show how your product can solve a problem for the consumer in a way they might not have seen before? Will AR help enhance an experience for your consumer that they otherwise would not experience through other interactive channels or technologies? In regards to the Webcam Social Shopper above, we focused on the aspects of AR that we could use to help bridge the gap between offline and online shopping. This specific AR application would not have been possible without AR so it’s important to focus on the utility based aspects of AR and how it can potentially solve a scenario or problem for your consumer, and subsequently your brand. One brand (that shall rename nameless) was guilty of doing AR just to do it and suffered from severe backlash on the web. The AR had nothing to do with their product and in fact, targeted a demographic that was least likely to be engaged by AR technology. If you’re not careful, the AR experience can hurt your brand or product rather than help it.
3. How will Augmented Reality interact with or enhance other aspects of my Integrated Campaign?
It’s very easy to get caught up in the hype and amazement of viewing AR for the first time. I know we all did the first time we saw AR in person. However, that should not stop you from asking the hard questions about any AR initiative that might be part of your campaign. Will your AR effort tie into any other integrated efforts or are you only looking at the ‘cool’ aspects of AR that function as a one-off for your product or campaign. Many well thought out integrated campaigns lately are using print and AR together to provide a unique experience. Mobile AR has also become much more prominent on smart phones like the iPhone and Android and can be leveraged with retail or OOH components of a campaign. There are even examples of AR integrated with Social Media that help transform AR from an individual to community focused experience.
Augmented Reality is not only here to stay but is the future of how we will view and access virtual information in the real world. However, in the marketing and advertising worlds, it’s going to take some restraint by agencies and marketers to not rush out multitudes of gimmicky, non-utility based AR executions that will quickly turn off consumers and overhype the technology. AR has the potential to be a unique technology that can enhance the product or brand experience for the consumer – especially when paired with other emerging media and technology. It’s an exciting time right now watching AR evolve into a science without the fiction.
For the AR examples mentioned above and more, please visit the Facebook Augmented Reality community – http://www.facebook.com/augmentedreality. If you have any questions related to AR, please feel free to reach out to me at Matt@zugara.com.