KIA’s Optima AR app lets consumers interact with TV and print ads through Augmented Reality

Despite their relatively high costs, Augmented Reality apps are sneaking into the second screen advertising experience, creating richer opportunities for brands to interact with potential consumers. Right now most AR is centered around apps for smartphones. The global install base of AR-capable devices rose from 8 million smartphones in 2008 to 100 million in 2010. According to Nielsen, 43 percent of all mobile subscribers use smartphones. Further, Juniper Research recently put out a report on mobile augmented reality, saying that global revenues for AR apps are expected to reach $1.5 billion by 2015. There is widespread speculation that AR will probably come into its own as a marketing tool in 2013.

We may not have to wait that long. This year has been a banner one for all things AR. AR made a splash at CES earlier this year, and early March saw the launch of Doritos Locos, with an augmented reality execution. Regarding those statistics on the growth of AR-capable devices and potential revenues for AR apps in the next few years, marketers should be paying close attention to the trajectory of this technology. Millennials, who are already used to interacting with multiple screens at a time, are as organically AR friendly an audience as one can imagine.

Customers can monitor real-time Twitter conversations with Taco Bell’s AR app

How can marketers take advantage of this essential technology? Wikipedia defines AR as “a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.” Further, the core segments of mobile AR are six-fold: location-based search; mobile games; multimedia and entertainment; lifestyle and healthcare; education and reference; social networking and enterprise. Boeing researcher Tom Caudell coined the term Augmented Reality to describe a digital display used by aircraft electricians that blended virtual graphics onto a physical reality. Nowadays, however, AR—particularly in the case of the successful AR television campaign—involves creating an immersive digital layer over an event.

Kia’s augmented reality campaign is a noteworthy case study of what can be accomplished with the technology, if done right. KIA expertly bridged the dual-screen TV and mobile device user gap for the Australian Tennis Open. The campaign connected TV and mobile with 3D content. By pointing a smartphone at the KIA logo on TV, the viewer activated the AR app that created a 3D representation of the KIA Optima. Even after the logo left the screen, the representation remained via their snap-to-screen feature extending viewer engagement. Explore Engage, which did the campaign, has said they are going to merge the concept with gaming, polling, and other interactive features.

(KIA’s Optima AR)

Ease of use, as evidenced here, will be a factor in any effective AR campaign. Cable networks TNT and HGTV have been less high tech in their approach but no less effective. Incorporating QR codes in printed Valpak advertisements, they are promoting their television shows by going after their target audiences. Valpak, the direct marketer of local and national advertisements, sends “The Blue Envelope” chock filled with coupon specials to households around the country. The target demographic of TNT and HGTV shows like Rizzoli and Isles and Martha Stewart are quite coupon friendly. The AR add on to snail mail involves QR codes which can be scanned to win prizes.

What other AR elements work? Interactive augmented reality TV is already making waves in Germany, where the German science TV show Galileo uses quizzes. Again, the gaming component. We are, of course, in the early stages, but clearly snap-to-screen features, like in the KIA campaign, are effective. In the KIA campaign the viewer can change the color of the car and turn the lights on and off.

Audience emotional interest is clearly also a factor. What show is being advertised on? Advertisers will want to develop campaigns that wrap around an event—like the Australian Tennis Open, a real-time live event with more than a little audience emotional interest. Augmented reality games surrounding a television show might be the way of the future.

Finally, although Google has no immediate plans to sell ads on its Google glasses, it is hard to imagine a future in which it doesn’t eventually do so. AR Glasses, which overlay information and graphics, are still in the prototype phase, are screaming out to advertisers.

What do you think of Augmented Reality in advertising and engaging television audiences? Let us know in the comments and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn.

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Ron MwangaguhungaRon Mwangaguhunga is a former editor-in-chief at and contributor at Silicon Alley Reporter. He was named one of “25 Media Insiders to Follow” by and one of “140 (Social Media) Characters” by Paper Magazine. Ron’s writings have appeared on and in New York magazine.



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