Layering augmented reality (AR) filters onto images has become a favorite pastime during the global shutdown. Its newfound popularity may be just the kick that immersive advertising needs to become reality—and for brands to move from chaos to catalyst.
Immersive experiences rest on a trio of technologies that includes AR and its enablers, the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI). Right now, AR is having a moment. Long a staple among smartphone-toting Gen Z consumers on social platforms, AR filters have gone mainstream. Consumers of all ages have flocked to the idea of superimposing digital effects on images to alleviate work-from-home (WFH) boredom and liven up virtual business meetings. Downloads of filter-filled Snap Camera, which also runs on desktop webcams, have soared 10-fold.
Laying the Groundwork
Mass adoption of AR may turn out to be the tipping point for immersive experiences, but a confluence of technologies has long been underway.
As brands get up to speed on immersive experiences, market readiness is brewing. Sensor costs are declining, and AR and motion capture are undergoing rapid advances. Meanwhile, social media platforms now support interactive advertising, and visual effects are undergoing a democratization: With Snapchat’s new AR production tool, brands can create lenses without third-party design and production studios.
What’s important here is that as immersive advertising’s once formidable barriers to entry fall, brands can focus on the storytelling that is their core business. The result is the potential for a continuum of fully immersive advertising and customer experiences.
Instead of passively delivering content to consumers, brands can step outside the traditional advertising construct. By providing a repository of digital characters and animations, they can enlist consumers to co-create hyper-personalized storytelling with sophisticated visual effects using real-time integration of motion data with pre-created core objects of scenes.
Coupled with the emerging concept of dynamic creative development, immersive advertising can have even more impact. The dynamic creative concept allows marketers to generate hundreds or thousands of versions of a single advertisement that, each one hyper-personalized across myriad factors such as demographics, location and time of viewing.
What an Immersive Brand Experience Looks Like
In other words, the sky’s the limit. What would an immersive advertising campaign look like? We saw the first glimmer in Honda’s brilliant 2015 interactive ad. But today’s immersive advertising is poised for a much broader impact, viewable on any platform that supports interactivity — think Facebook, Snapchat or a smartphone app — and integrated with product barcodes as well. Ad campaigns will incorporate more consumer-generated creative content and the ability to scale personalization of ads in ways that make digital campaigns feel targeted and relatable.
For a global food brand, such a campaign might start with an amped-up, AR-enabled version of user-generated content: consumers are invited to create two-minute videos by dipping into a trove of pre-created digital avatars and animations from the company’s digital repository. Finished videos are uploaded, and the company airs the top entry on TV and digital video platforms as an advertisement for the brand.
The brand can then hyper-personalize the winning entry to be more relatable to viewers across regions, micro-locations, demographics and preferences. It can produce literally hundreds or thousands of versions of the winning entry with variations as discrete and targetable as a neighborhood’s name, colors, and details aligning to the time of viewing or character gender or ethnicity.
For example, a food brand can customize the same advertisement for targetable neighborhoods around the country: “Good morning, Upper West Side. Still looking for a healthy breakfast option for today?” Immersive advertisements’ options are as unlimited as the unique number of targetable viewers that a brand can reach.
For brands, immersive experiences are about much more than a cheap way to mass advertise. Because video-creating customers are able to trigger their stories whenever they use the brand’s app or scan product barcodes, brands can instantly personalize interactions.
AR campaigns also have the potential to generate a wealth of insight into brand perception and resonance among geographies, regions and demographics. They can be especially influential in product development because of their ability to capture through behavior consumers’ otherwise unarticulated needs and expectations.
Consumer readiness has taken a giant step forward. Now it’s brands’ turn.