Are Marketers Ready to Augment Reality?

With the advent of powerful mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers, consumers are interacting with media far more frequently and across a wider variety of platforms than ever before. Augmented reality applications offer an entirely new yet totally organic format for interacting with media.

At The Gramercy Institute’s Journal of Financial Advertising & Marketing (JFAM) Forum in New York City on June 3rd, Anthony Vitalone, Head of Interactive Marketing, Internet, & Digital Media for Deutsche Bank, touted the potential of “augmented reality” (“AR”) as the “next big thing” in digital marketing.

AR applications integrate camera and gyroscope functionalities within devices to provide a digital user experience based on what is happening in real time and space. For example, a customer in a retail store can point their camera at items on a shelf, and the device will display details, pricing, or even advertisements for the products they see. Likewise, a traveler can point a camera down a street and overlaid on the display screen will be a digital map with information on local places of interest.

Both the iPhone and Android app marketplaces are beginning to see an influx of augmented reality apps. While impressive in concept, the cost of developing the applications, inconsistencies in user experience, and inaccuracies with execution have decreased user downloads.

Marketers have taken to AR, promoting products via interactive applications. In 2009, Best Buy began incorporating AR into weekly circular ads, offering consumers 3D representations of featured new wares. Companies such as Burger King and Ralph Lauren are also taking advantage of new technologies to incorporate AR experiences into marketing campaigns. With an increasingly social consumer base, AR is proving to be a fast moving revolution in marketing.

Augmented reality apps face the major hurdle of the technology learning curve both for the developer and the user. High costs and limited quality of functionality will be the primary challenges to AR’s takeover of consumer media consumption. Will augmented reality rule the future of digital marketing?

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