Augmented reality, or AR, has become one of the hottest new advertising trends. From Toyota to Nivea to Disney, a diverse array of brands has hopped on the AR bandwagon in the hope of creating hype and increasing consumer engagement.
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AR allows smartphone users to point their phones’ cameras at certain objects — be it a print advertisement or even a coffee cup — that trigger a 3D video.
This isn’t entirely new technology: AR creates the yellow first down line during football broadcasts. But the ad world only really started buzzing about augmented reality around 2008, and it has taken a few years for brands to really start investing in the media.
Since one in two Americans owns a smartphone, the advertising tool has a large potential audience. Augmented reality, by definition, gives brands the opportunity to unexpectedly integrate the digital world with the real world, which appeals to younger tech-lovers who are usually sceptical of traditional advertising methods.
But AR doesn’t only appeal to the millennial generation. The out-of-this-world, space-age effect engages just about everyone from children to grandparents, which explains why ABI Research estimates the market for augmented reality in the US will reach $350 million in 2014. That’s up from only $6 million in 2008.
While almost all augmented reality campaigns are pretty cool, some brands use the technology to create something really memorable. Lynx (known as Axe in the U.S.), for example, put signs in train stations that allowed passers-by to interact with the sexy angels featured in the company’s ad campaigns.
Net-A-Porter's use of augmented reality brings a whole new meaning to window shopping.
The online luxury fashion retailer created AR storefronts in Paris, New York, London, Munich and Sydney to promote the new Karl by Karl Lagerfeld collection.
The storefront looks fairly commonplaces, but with a little help from the Net-A-Porter Karl app, fashionistas can reveal videos of the catwalk, product information, 360 degree product models, pricing and the ability to purchase the products.
This concept premiered in September 2011 as part of Fashion's Night Out in London and New York (see video below) as a way for the online retailer to participate in something that is a real-world shopping event.
Absolut's augmented reality campaign, AbsolutTruths, shows consumers how vodka is made using an AR tag hung on Absolut bottles.
'Explore the unnecessary lengths we go to, to make our vodka good...Browse through the wheat fields of Southern Sweden and the One Source where every drop of ABSOLUT comes from. You will also get a drink recipe to taste the quality,' writes the vodka company on their iTunes app page.
For those of you who aren't yet finished with the bottle of Absolut in your freezer, but still want to see the beautiful Swedish countryside, the tag can also be printed out at their website.
Starbucks dabbled in augmented reality for the first time this holiday season by letting customers animate their red coffee cups with their smartphones.
By downloading the Starbucks Cup Magic app and pointing their smartphone at the cup, customers produce animations involving five characters including an ice skater, a squirrel, a boy and his dog sledding, and a fox.
You can also interact with the characters by tapping on the screen. Check out the video below to see what they will do when you interact with them and for a full demo of the app.
Last March, travellers in London's Victoria station were surprised by some special guests who fell from the sky. Lynx, known as Axe in the U.S., used augmented reality to let people pose with the angels featured in their ad campaigns.
The brand put signs in the railway station telling travellers to look up to a giant video screen. On the screen, they saw an image of themselves plus the angels.
The stunt drew a lot of attention and, in some cases, some pretty crass behaviour, both of which can be seen in the video below.
As if Times Square weren't visually stimulating enough, Disney Parks decided that they needed to install an augmented reality billboard in the middle of it all!
The idea is similar to the Linx AR installation: when people stand in the marked circle opposite the billboard, a Disney character magically appears. But unlike the angel, these characters interact with people as they watch on the big screen.
While this campaign was probably trying to pull in the kids, battling Captain Hook and dancing with Cruella De Vil did a pretty decent job of entertaining the adults as well, much like this AR stunt for National Geographic.
Car brands, more than other industries, have been pretty quick to jump on the augmented reality bandwagon, but this stunt from Hyundai takes it to another level.
To promote their new Accent sedan, Hyundai decided to a giant 3D projection on the side of a building. This would be interesting enough, but to take it to the next level, they suspended an actual car on the face of the building and had a driver walk down the wall to drive it.
The effect is fantastic, and probably worth all the money they spent for the amount of buzz they received.
Unlike most brands, which have used augmented reality to create stunts, Nike used the technology to create a game.
They recruited 50 runners to wear 'Flash' running jackets hooked up to GPS systems, while they ran around Vienna for 90 minutes. As they ran, game participants tracked them with a mobile app and tried to take a photo of the runner. Those with the most photos won a prize.
Most AR promotions engage viewers because they are so unusual, but this takes engagement to another level.
Read more about the game here.
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