What augmented reality actually looks like

What happens when the real and computer-generated worlds collide? A host of opportunities for content marketers

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Augmented reality (AR) enhances the world around you with computer-generated sensory audio and visual information.

There has been much discussion about the role artificial intelligence (AI), AR and automation will play in the future of marketing.

But what about right now? Recently there have been some interesting examples that deploy these methods – bringing AR to the forefront of content marketing and demonstrating how new technologies can be integrated seamlessly and effectively with existing content strategies.

For example, with a smartphone and app on their side The Economist has shown a new world where content and AR coexist happily.

Content strategies

The Economist recently teamed up with Snapchat for this article looking at foods of the future.

Those reading on desktop or laptop computers can open up their Snapchat app and scan the code alongside each paragraph.

A temporary lens will then provide a menu of edible insects and 3D-printed food. As well as a visual offering, there is also an infographic explaining the implications of each food choice and a brief audio commentary.

Appetising? Perhaps not if you’re about to devour your lunch. But it should pique your content marketing taste buds, as this is great example of how content can be effectively placed within the AR sphere using just a smartphone and pre-existing app.

Key lesson: AR doesn’t need to be prohibitive – deploy it on channels your audience is already using to enhance existing content strategies.

Social strategies

Facebook has just announced that it is bringing augmented reality adverts to its newsfeed.

These AR ads allow consumers to try on products, such as sunglasses, and consequently buy straight from the app. It’s not a surprising move. Recent stats show that 80 million people in the US engage with AR on a monthly basis and this number is sure to grow as AR creeps into our day-to-day lives.

The adverts should not only delight shoppers looking for a wardrobe update, but also marketers looking for more inspiring and engaging ways to market a product. And once again, AR is accessible through the already-existing platform of Facebook – no need to invest new-build technology.

Key lesson: Social channels are a great way of nudging consumers from initial interest to a purchase – why not dabble with their AR capabilities to take their potential to the next level?

Advertising strategies

Last year, Range Rover brought AR to the banner ad. These banner ads augmented the user’s reality and allowed them to see the world from inside a Range Rover Velar SUV, using just a smartphone camera.

The campaign saw a click-through rate of 38% – eight times higher than the average for the traditional banner format.

As we’ve mentioned before on this blog, GDPR has been a watershed moment in the industry – with publishers looking to the past for answers.

While the legislation overhauled how ads are targeted, the example of Range Rover demonstrates your dusty old banner may be in line for a format upheaval anyway. Marketers should think about how AR can co-exist with traditional commercial formulas.

Key lesson: The banner ad is in need of a reboot, particularly after GDPR – AR could be the way to do it.

The content marketing perspective

Creating your own AR and content marketing ecosystem is not as formidable a task as you might think. But it does highlight how marketing must now bridge content, social and advertising – there should no longer be any disconnect between the three strands.

As demonstrated by The Economist, Facebook and Range Rover, AR technology can be integrated effectively into existing marketing strategies – particularly with the engagement possibilities offered by smartphones.

And phones are the key here. Whether your audience consumes your content on mobile, desktop or print, smartphones offer a portal to a world of possibilities for AR.

It’s good news – there is more space than ever for creative thinking. Take these three examples and run with it.

AR isn’t the future, it’s already here. Don’t get left behind.

Laura Thornes