In a nutshell, augmented reality (AR) overlays an additional level of information on to your physical surroundings using a phone or a head-mounted display as a medium. While head-mounted displays are mostly meant for industrial and educational usage, the true adoption of AR relies upon technology found in everyone’s pocket – smartphones.
Despite being a relatively new technology from the perception of mass market, augmented reality in different forms and configurations has been around since the 1960s. The term itself was created much later by a Boeing researcher in 1990. A few years later, Louis Rosenberg developed one of the earliest functioning AR systems at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory. For a long time, augmented reality has been mostly used by the military Then, years later, the wider audience found out about AR during the Pokémon GO hype of 2016. In a sense, the game triggered a behavioural shift: before, people didn’t hold their phone up for much, other than taking a picture.
Tech giants have been struggling to push augmented reality through Gartner Hype Cycle for emerging technologies for quite some time. Nevertheless, only after recent developments including the introduction of ARKit and ARCore software development tools by Apple and Google, the increase in sophistication of Snapchat’s lenses and the release of extended Facebook Camera features, augmented reality has become a tech which is taken seriously. This has been fuelled by the increased level of processing power in modern mobile phones.
Why is AR important for brands and marketing agencies? Simply because it modifies how consumers behave, brings a spur of novelty and innovation into their experience and, consequently, creates lots of opportunities for companies to entice customers to open their wallets. Businesses are fighting to take the top place while the technology is still developing. For instance, Zara, a Spanish fashion retailer owned by Inditex, is planning to install AR displays that allow shoppers to browse and buy clothes from 120 stores worldwide.
Facebook and Snapchat are competing to make AR more accessible and attractive to brands with 3D lenses. Snapchat has already tested custom 3D lenses for brands like Budweiser, BMW and McDonald’s. The offering is not cheap – an AR lens typically costs between $500,000 and $1 million per day. Moreover, advertisers typically support their premium product with other types of ads available on Snapchat. Although Snapchat AR lenses are expensive, the reach can go up to 30 million users during a takeover on national holidays in the US. Effective CPM for 3D lenses fluctuates between $8 and $20, which is lower than almost all major platforms with premium video content.
Even though Snap pioneered AR on social media and is claiming its technology is among the best, Facebook also has a few things to offer. At the end of March, the company unveiled an update on metrics for its AR effects in some agencies’ and developers’ AR development kits. It included three metrics: the first allows you to see the number of unique lens users, the second spots how many of them took a picture using the lens and the third one measures specific actions such as purchases, items added to the basket, webpage views or app installations. These metrics will make it possible to estimate the value of AR effect even more accurately.
To conclude, as AR is being further incorporated into marketing and advertising concepts, brands and agencies will need to figure out how to utilise it effectively and extend their campaigns beyond the screen by making them even more memorable.