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AR comes of age as brands seek to engage consumers

The trend is fast picking up of brands taking the augmented reality route for campaigns. BestMediaInfo takes stock of how AR is delivering exciting consumer engagement options

Ananya Saha | Delhi | June 11, 2012

Traditional advertising delivers. But it does not engage. Digital advertising delivers and engages, but it is not exciting enough. Games are exciting and engaging, but it is not ‘real’ enough. Enter Augmented Reality: engaging, exciting and high on deliverables.

An extension of virtual reality, augmented reality (AR) is a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory inputs such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. It is related to a more general concept called ‘mediated reality’, in which a view of reality is modified by a computer. As a result, the technology enhances one’s current perception of reality. According to the industry, the trend of using AR to reach out to the ‘butterfly consumer’ is on an upswing.

Even as India is late to catch up on the AR fad, brands are increasingly using the tool to create strong engagement options.

Tribal DDB needed to create an idea that delivered an impact bigger than the expected reach of digital for McDonald’s Spice Fest – something that was exciting enough for people to talk about, play with and share. Hence, it decided to create a digital property that interacts with the user, both online and offline. The challenge was to engage and interact with the digital innovation. The innovation had to be simple, in sync with the McDonald's Spice Fest theme, encourage user participation across stores and excite users to viral the campaign online.

Tribal DDB, Mumbai, created a digital engagement using McDonald’s celebrated line-up of fries, burgers and nuggets, and added a pinch of augmented reality to it. Users had to log into the game using their email ID. After logging in, they had to switch on their webcam to start playing. Users then had to consume virtual fries, burgers and nuggets. Each time they got it right, they won points.

After a successful in-store launch, the game was also launched online on Facebook. Over a thousand visitors interacted with Spice Fest game in-store and shared their scores and experiences on Facebook. The game caught up on social media and more than one lakh visitors played the game online.

Building on its ‘Be Blue’ campaign, Reliance termed its AR game as the next phase of its marketing strategy to make people aware of Reliance 3G and Google Android tie-up. Social Wavelength, the agency that created the Facebook application, says it wanted to do something really creative, exciting and out-of-the-box for users to feel and experience. Hence augmented reality was an obvious choice.

The upcoming Bollywood movie, ‘Ferrari Ki Sawaari’, which talks about pursuing one’s dream, has partnered with Hungama Digital to create an augmented reality campaign in Mumbai, wherein consumers got a chance to experience the technology first-hand as they were comfortably seated while enjoying a Ferrari ride. A big screen over the car seats shows the consumer cruising around in the iconic car. Hungama Digital boasts of being the pioneers of AR space in India. It had devised AR campaigns for Mahindra’s XUV 500 at the Auto Expo 2012 where visitors got to pet a cheetah; 7Up; Godrej Interio; and the Movies Now Spectacular Spielberg Festival.

What is fanning the trend? Venkat Mallik, President – India, Tribal DDB, said, “Today, in the social media age, if your advertising is not entertaining or engaging enough, Millenials won’t necessarily pay attention to it. AR helps to close that gap between advertising and engagement. AR helps to add a dimension of personalisation that is irreplaceable. Brands and marketers can think up more and more interesting new ways to connect people with products. When consumers have an unforgettable positive experience, they're more likely to come back.”

Hareesh Tibrewala, Joint CEO, Social Wavelength, points out how the new phenomenon of AR is based on the challenge of engaging the consumer. “As the benchmark of consumer engagement is going up, brands are trying to woo the consumer in newer ways. From 2D, the movies are increasingly progressing to 3D. This is the same trend that is fuelling the adaptation of AR campaigns,” he said.

Talking about the popularity of AR-based applications, Mallik explained, “Gaming is one place where AR finds very interesting applications with the device camera being used to enhance the game experience. AR as a technology is particularly aimed at people whose lives revolve around being constantly connected to technology, for example, Smartphones. AR offers a serious opportunity to marketers to reach out to these consumers. Therefore, brands that have youth as their primary audience will quite obviously use AR more often. Online retail is one vertical where the use of AR has been path-breaking. AR here is used to bridge the gap between the offline and the online world, letting consumers see the product in action/try it ‘virtually’ before they buy it online.”

Currently, AR campaigns are usually coupled with other digital campaigns. While there are no industry estimates about the size of AR industry, Tibrewala estimated that about 100 AR-based applications are developed in India every year. And with 3G prices dropping, 4G on the anvil and Smartphone and other mobile device sales picking up in India, and the fact that brands need newer tools to engage consumers, the number is set to swell. “AR today is expensive to develop, relatively unknown in the mainstream, and brands are using it tactically to break media clutter. However, fast-forward a few months and we’ll find that brands will create ways of using it as a means of not only grabbing attention but adding genuine value to the customer's experience with the brand,” concluded Mallik.

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