Augmented Reality – digital’s next big thing

Augmented Reality, or AR, is an exciting technology that is set to become the next big thing in interactive digital marketing. The concept of AR has been around for a while but recent technological advances have enabled it to become more widely used as an interactive communications component of branded campaigns. This post will briefly introduce what the AR technology is, how it is being integrated into marketing campaigns and a few examples of campaigns that have effectively utilised the technology.

Basically, AR occurs when a computer enhances a user’s perception of reality. This enhancement of reality is achieved when a computer-generated stimulus (such as an image, video, sound or graphic) is overlaid on a real-life object. Think of AR as virtual reality’s little brother: where virtual reality creates an entirely artificial world, AR instead uses the real world and adds a digital layer to it.

So what’s the big deal?

What makes AR so exciting for digital marketers is that AR can take a product and make it instantly digitally interactive for consumers. AR technology has recently been improved with object recognition that can trigger the interactive digital overlay. So now instead of cluttering printed media with ugly black and white QR codes in order to take consumers to an online landing page, AR apps can be developed that react to product packaging, a brand or an image.  With the amount of smartphones and tablets out there this makes the technology easily accessible to consumers.

AR is being increasingly used as a digital communications channel by both agencies and brands. Here are some of my favourite campaigns that have used AR as a key component of digital strategy.

1. M&M’s Action Packs

I am fortunate to have met the creator of this fun campaign that involves the use of an AR app to trigger an interactive episode featuring the lovable M&M’s characters. When the app is focussed on the Action Pack, object recognition technology triggers an ‘episode’ of the characters that can be viewed on mobile devices. There are a series of episodes that have been gradually released in an effort to encourage ongoing engagement and repeat purchases. The campaign also featured the essential element of social integration so that images could be captured and shared directly from the app.

2. Proximity China – VW ‘The People’s Car Project’

Volkswagen has a strong heritage in the Chinese market and wanted to make a car that was not just built “for the people” but created “by the people”. Leading international digital marketing agency Proximity created an integrated campaign that enabled the Chinese people to engage in the design process that helped VW localise their product.

Embedded within a sophisticated cross-media campaign, AR technology enabled the consumers at events to engage with the concepts and ideas that were being created as part of the campaign.

3. Fanta Funstigator


The Fanta Funstigator is a social media-based app that is part of the latest digital campaign for Fanta. The Fanta Funstigator Facebook page features interactive games and encourages users to upload their own content to earn points and compete for prizes. The app also incorporates AR with packaging that features a ‘crew’ of characters called the Funstigators that come to life on users’ devices. Underpinning the campaign is the shareability of user-generated content, and I anticipate that Coca-Cola will roll out its own version of the campaign to replace its hugely successful ‘Share a Coke’ campaign in the near future.

There is huge potential for AR to play a central role in delivering a new level of interactivity to digital marketing. As with all technology, AR will continue to develop and I anticipate that it will become seamlessly integrated into more and more digital campaigns. What do you guys think?



3 thoughts on “Augmented Reality – digital’s next big thing”

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