As 1989’s "Back to the Future II" showed us, 2015 would find Live AR movie promotions for "Jaws 19" and teens and adults using AR-enabled goggles along the lines of Google Glass (if Google Glass looked like Google Cardboard).
Of course, with all the excitement around Oculus Rift and the aforementioned Cardboard, one could be forgiven for wondering if this is the year virtual reality (or VR, immersive experiences within virtual environments) overshadowed AR (which layers virtual elements over the physical world in front of you in what has been called "The Internet on Things).
But that doesn’t mean there weren’t some brands doing their best to capitalize on an emerging technology expected to eclipse VR with $120 million of the total $150 billion AR/VR market by 2020, according to a recent report from Manatt Digital Media.
Among the more positive trends this year: A move beyond (just) promotional eye candy to showroom and retail sales tools and apps, as well as AR-enhanced commerce.
As AR ramps up for what will hopefully be a more promising year ahead, let's take a look at some of our favorites in AR-enabled marketing and advertising from 2015—at least so far—below.
What made your list? And what AR campaigns would you add to ours? Do share!
2015 TOP 10 BEST: AUGMENTED REALITY
10. AZEK: AR HOME IMPROVEMENT IPAD APP
What Ikea long ago started doing for interiors, exterior building products maker AZEK is doing for dealers and contractors trying to help clients make decisions for their home improvement projects. The AR Home Improvement App offers the ability to show prospects and customers how new pavers, patio finishes, porches, railings, and light fixtures will look when in situ (albeit on a representative home, not their own), save the visual, and even share it via social media. Built by Marxent Labs, the app is in use by 75% of all AZEK resellers, with 1,000 new downloads per month. Now that’s something to write home about.
9. MANOR PLUS: AR CATALOG
Also making a nod to Ikea's catalog playbook: Zurich’s Manor Plus Summer 2015 catalog, which featured AR elements that helped its merchandising come to life.
8. TOYS 'R US: 'TRUE MAGIC IN-STORE AR
How do you get shoppers into store locations during the Easter season? Launch an AR Egg Hunt for the chance to win store gift cards. Here’s a brick & mortar retailer that refused to shy away from mobile and instead embraced it to enhance the retail experience.
7. MICROSOFT HALOLENS: 'TRANSFORM YOUR WORLD'
Okay, this is cheating, since HoloLens isn’t even out yet. But it perfectly captures the value proposition for augmented reality. And it happens to top ADWEEK’s branded video charts just now. When I wrote about the future of augmented reality in my second book, THE ON-DEMAND BRAND, this is definitely the kind of thing I envisioned. Be sure to check out this gaming demo as well.
6. MINI USA: 'AR VISION'
We’re cheating again here, too, as this is conceptual marketing from MINI. Called Augmented Vision, this wearable AR concept will hypothetically be tied to the MINI Connected Infotainment platform, to “enhance the driving experience by seamlessly interconnecting applications inside and outside the vehicle while providing the driver with greater vision and increased safety.” Unlike the HoloLens demo, which is for an actual product, this concept is, as far as we know, still very much in development at BMW’s lab in Mountain View, California.
5. LEXUS & FERRARI SHOWROOM AR
Lexus has done some very cool work with augmented reality in years past. And Ferrari is, well, Ferrari. But a trend to note here is that, like Azek in its own category, these celebrated upscale to uber-luxury brands are now moving beyond AR promotions to include useful support tools sales people can use to give clientele a closer look at upcoming cars and to showcase automobile innovation. On another end of the automobile spectrum, look also at Hyundai’s new Virtual Owner’s Guide, which is designed for customers as part of the actual brand experience.
4. JOHN LEWIS: 'MAN ON THE MOON' AR APP
This Christmas TV spot from UK retailer John Lewis is going to instantly get you in the spirit of the season. It’s already the early favorite of the Holiday ad season internationally, inspiring a perhaps inevitable ‘Star Wars’ parody. And it also has its own mobile app, which includes, among other things, an AR feature that lets you hold your phone to the moon to view interesting factoids, or at John Lewis in-store posters and shopping bags to unlock free downloads at the retailer’s site.
3. UNIVERSAL STUDIOS: 'FURIOUS 7' LIVE AR DISPLAY
In the vein of great mobile AR apps like the special effects app from JJ Abrams’ production company Bad Robot, this live AR display enables you to watch yourself get killed by a falling car in front of friends and perfect strangers at the mall. Morbid as it may seem, it’d be hard for the target audience for the latest installment of the mega hit ‘Fast & Furious’ franchise to ignore. Kind of makes you wonder what a similar AR promotion for ‘San Andreas’ might have been like.
2. MICROSOFT: 'SUNSET OVERDRIVE' BUS SHELTERS
The whole AR-enabled bus shelter has been done before, but it still can’t help but draw you in—especially when it involves mutant monsters coming your way on the street in front of you. Still, as cool as this promo for the new Xbox game ‘Sunset Overdrive’ looks, the Overcharge Delirium XT energy drink it features sounds like it may be even more tempting than the game itself.
1. SNICKERS: 'HUNGER BAR'
You’re not quite you when you’re hungry, are you? Which is why Snickers rolled out this new installment of its long-running "You're Not You" campaign, which includes a mobile app that enables consumers to create images related to their particular hunger symptoms and share them socially. The key isn’t to show off what kind of hungry you are, of course, but in calling out family and friends for acting “snippy,” “loopy,” “cranky,” “confused,” “spacey," or ... insert your own adjective here.
BONUS CAMPAIGN: SEAGATE 'HOLIDAY SMOOCH BOOTH'
In the same vein as the Snickers ‘Hunger Bar’ campaign, this Holiday 2015 promotion from storage solutions provider Seagate enables you to snap a selfie or upload an image from your photo library, and then proceed to augment your reality (or somebody else’s) with holiday visuals (Santa hat, reindeer antlers, etc.) and send personalized seasons greetings. I’m biased, since I had input on this web app from Havas SF. But having developed promotions like this for other brands, I know it's an approach that can make for powerful experiential marketing.
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