Augmented reality (AR) is the overlaying of digital information onto a user’s real-world, real-time environment. AR has been around for a while but its profile spiked this year with the huge success of Pokémon Go, where gamers use maps linked to their phone’s GPS to find Pokémon and perform tasks. AR is becoming big business, with companies like Apple investing heavily. It’s also got great and as yet largely untapped potential in advertising. It’s worth giving AR some serious thought as a promotional tool.
Augmented reality makes your immediate surroundings more interesting and turns mundane tasks into adventures. Any advertiser will tell you that making interaction with a brand entertaining and fun is pure promotional gold. This is the opportunity that AR offers for advertisers. Using mobile technology, you can graft brand presence onto the real world and make interactions seamless.
While current PR initiatives to wow are increasingly hard to believe, Augmented Reality could prove to me a much-needed panacea. As Four Broadgate’s Cara Steinson points out authenticity is still very much the name of the game: “In a world where companies are increasingly pressured into thinking about social and environmental issues by consumers and shareholders alike, there is a clear lesson to be learnt. Talk is cheap and people will see through all the pomp and circumstance if you fail to deliver. What matters is having the ability to back up claims with real action or your messages will fall on deaf ears or, worse still, result in lasting damage to the brand.”
Haptic communication is integral to augmented reality. This is where technology gives users physical feedback. You receive haptic communication when your phone vibrates to tell you a text has arrived. Haptic communication has been used in games for years as a way of creating a richer, more immersive environment and advertisers are starting to use it in a similar way. Lexus combined video and haptic communication in a recent campaign to simulate the driving experience. Incorporating haptic effects increases the feeling of participation and encourages longer and deeper engagement with content.
A Panoramic View
AR environments give users the ability to look around their surroundings. Whilst this might well be a future direction, the development resources currently required for AR means that fully immersive advertising is some way off. You can, however, replicate the feel of AR by creating panoramic digital environments that can be navigated digitally. Facebook showcased panoramic content at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival with a mobile ad for Michael Kors watches where users can pinch and swipe to get a 360-degree view of the product.
As well as freedom to explore, AR environments also give users the pleasure of discovering things, either deliberately or at random. As with haptic communication, this isn’t a concept exclusive to AR. Think back to the additional features or ‘Easter Eggs’ hidden in Microsoft products, like the flight simulator concealed in earlier versions of Excel. Promotional campaigns can also incorporate the pleasure of discovery, particularly with the development of expanded ad technology, where users can tap to expand additional features or access different content by tilting their device.
The AR revolution isn’t coming: it’s already here. It’s yet, however, to make its presence fully felt in advertising. Getting on board now and incorporating AR into your campaigns can give you the edge. This doesn’t have to be a big budget, full immersive environment. It could just be a reference to the experience and aesthetic of AR through features like panoramic views and hidden content. It’s undoubtedly an area with enormous potential.