We’ve been talking a lot about Augmented Reality of late. The FT feature a few weeks back got us all excited but it also signified the paradigm shift; that moment when a technology that has been pottering around in the background for a while, finally sits up and screams from a full page in the FT ‘Hey Marketers – I know you’ve only just figured out Twitter but how about you have a play with me?”

Gary Hayes over at Personalized Media has pulled together a couple of rather handy posts. The first looks at the influence AR might have on story-telling – think Minority Report but like, er, for real. This is less aimed at the world of traditional marketing and more at ARG fanatics (for the record I’m an ARG enthusiast, not a fanatic). The second is unapologetically commercial and looks at the different business models that have (or may) spring from the fountain of Augmented Reality. Both are worth a read.

All the recent stuff I’ve seen about Augmented Reality (FT piece included) talk about the potential for advertisers: immersive adverts, billboards that will come to life and bite you, bus stops that will wow you so much with technical wizardry that you will metamorphose into a ‘PowerConsumer’, from that moment automatically purchasing everything you see even if you don’t need it. If you believe the hype it’s as if Augmented Reality will singlehandedly save the ad industry. It may well do – though it does make you wonder what the point is in saving something if the end result is product placement in the Rovers Return?

But enough about how those Above-the-Line types will use the technology. Gary’s post got me thinking. Why is it only the Porn Industry and Advertisers who get to experiment ? (You can take that sentence a number of ways, should you wish). What I mean is – sure from an advertising point of view Augmented Reality is going to turn high-streets, shopping malls and maybe even your local pub into a virtual playground reminiscent of Tron. And this is exciting. True – as neatly shown by the FT experiment – Augmented Reality has amazing potential for ‘3D Virals’. Again – this is exciting.

But what I want to know as PRs committed to Public Engagement, could we have more fun with Augmented Reality? New technology always challenges industries (see iTunes, Spotify etc etc). But as PRs on the cusp of a new decade it is worth us taking a look at the other business models that Gary has outlined so see if there are other ways that Augmented Reality can be woven into our campaigns. Installations, information booths and social gaming may be less traditional routes to ‘media’ but are equally effective opportunities to ‘publically engage’ – so let’s have a think about using them. Why not use AR to do more work like this Nikon stunt. True this is an Ad campaign and doesn’t have an AR element, but hopefully you get the idea. This is a brilliant campaign. It’s a neat use of technology, it’s perfectly tied to the product, it gets people stopping in the street and causes a conversation online. It also makes a great picture story.

So I suppose that’s my point (sorry for the ramble). Let’s not think of Augmented Reality as ViralStrategy2.0 – rather let’s look at it as an opportunity to use technology to start a conversation. That is, allegedly, what they pay me for anyway…

PS – if nothing else check out the Avatar toys. It’s like the chess game in Star Wars. Top Trumps 2.0, perhaps?

@LukeMackay

Advertisements