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The pros and cons of augmented reality

The pros and cons of augmented reality Steve Olenski

I know, I know. Augmented reality (or "AR," is it?) is the next "it" when it comes to marketing. Big time players like BMW, Ben & Jerry's Ray-Ban, and eBay -- and even those without a "B" in their name, such as Audi -- are jumping on the augmented reality bandwagon.

And rightly so. Augmented reality is truly amazing and offers a heretofore unimaginable opportunity for marketers to allow consumers the chance to "try on" and "test drive" their products -- all from the comforts of their PC or smartphone, and even their car windshields. Yes, I know it's technically been around since the '90s, but nothing to this extent.

But before marketers go rearranging budgets and robbing from Peter (traditional digital) to pay for Paul (AR), a few words to the wise are in order.

Be mindful of your audience
As always, marketers must never lose of sight of their target audience. If you're marketing a product, service, or ware and your target demographic is not one that is prone to using technology (e.g., PCs, smartphones, iPads), then you might want to bypass the glitzy, shiny AR campaign. Remember, there are still quite a few folks (consumers) who don't use their cell phone/smartphone or PC the way the rest of us digitally-crazed beings do.

Ain't nothing like the real thing
These aforementioned folks are the same ones who actually still prefer going to a mall or store to try on a pair of shoes or a new shirt or take a real test drive in a real car. You want to have an AR campaign or app to help promote your brand? Awesome -- go for it. But don't forget to have that "other" option ready to for when your customer walks through your door and wants to "kick the tires" -- literally.

Don't go all in
You've read all about AR. You see your competitors using it, and being successful at it as well. Everyone's telling you that you need AR and that you need it now. The heck with other digital media, you're ready to put a big chunk of your marketing dollars behind AR. In a word: Don't. Augmented reality is no different than any other marketing medium. It needs to be tested first. Then, and only then, it needs to be integrated and woven seamlessly into your overall marketing strategy.

It's a great time to be a marketer, what with all the new tools in the tool box -- especially AR. But just like that new whatcha-ma-call-it and thing-a-ma-bob you just bought, you first need to learn how to use it.

But wait, there's more: Here are three examples of ways AR can benefit all marketers.

Try it on for size
Augmented reality allows your customers and prospective customers to experience your products and services hands-on, and they don't even have to come into a store to do it! They can do it all from the comfort of their home.

As a learning tool
Yelp, the online urban city guide that helps people find cool places to eat, shop, drink, relax, and play based on the informed opinions of a vibrant and active community of locals in-the-know, offers an AR app that when physically directed at a given restaurant, provides the user with ratings and reviews before they even walk through the door.

Bring good things to life
Let's say you or your client has a swanky new brochure. It's a printed piece that's all glossy and shiny and all that good stuff. Now imagine how off-the-charts it would look if said brochure came to life --literally.

These are just a few of the many, many ways AR can be used by marketers, advertisers, and essentially the entire free world.

OK, getting a little ahead of myself, sorry.

I will leave you with a basic FAQ list on augmented reality.

Q: What is AR?
A: You can probably find many different definitions but I like this one best: AR is the overlay of digital information on a live video stream.

Q: How much does AR cost?
A: Believe it or not, an AR campaign can be created for under $3,000 and maybe even less than that. The majority of the cost associated with AR comes from the 3D modeling that is needed. Or, you can try to do it yourself via apps such as GoldRun.

Q: Is there more than one kind of AR?
A: Yes, there are three: Web-based, mobile-based, and kiosk-based. Web-based AR uses a consumer's PC or webcam to deliver the AR experience. Mobile AR delivers the experience via a user's mobile phone while also providing improved or enhanced digital data about the user's surroundings. Kiosk-based AR does not require the use of a webcam but is obviously more costly due to the fact that well, you need a kiosk constructed.

So there you have it: the "whys," "whats," and even the "hows" of AR and how it can apply to and benefit marketers. Now it's your job to do your work and read more about this emerging form of media. I guarantee that your competition is -- maybe even as we speak.

Steve Olenski is the creative director of digital services at The Star Group.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia at @iMediaTweet.


to leave comments.

Commenter: Dan 'goAugmented' Sodergren

2011, August 08

Couple of points - and small ones at that - but needed.

Robbing Peter to pay Paul - not so sir - as a couple of our clients have popped AR into the print budget (as activated by print...)

And yes - you can get AR done for less than £2000 and you can do it yourself (just like with websites) but does your brand / your client's brand really want to do that?

Your point about AR being used today is a great one - we are at the start of an advertising revolution.

Commenter: Remco Vroom

2011, August 03

@Steven thanks for this blogpost. It is good to see that you are primarily approaching this from a marketing perspective instead of a technical perspective. I think I would add that within AR there is also more then one dimension in concepts. From enhanced visualizing of location based information, to contextual based, to experienced based concepts.

Kind regards!