“Brand managers need to think differently when it comes to AR”

Deeptha Sreedhar

Deeptha Sreedhar

I’m a Chennai-based Writer and Journalist. I handle the Digital Content for Appearition. My super-cool colleagues design, innovate and create magic in Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality. I use this space to present their magic in text. When I am not editing or scouring for story ideas one bit before hell breaks loose, I enjoy reading crime-fiction books and watching similar television series, do a bit of experimental cooking and some travel to wherever my bank balance supports upon paying all bills.
Deeptha Sreedhar

Vivek Aiyer, Founder, CEO of Appearition, shares his viewpoints on the application of augmented reality (AR) solutions in the OOH space in an exclusive interview with Outdoor Asia’s Rajiv Raghunath.

Edited excerpts:

Augmented Reality (AR)/ Virtual Reality (VR) technologies are not new to the Indian market. Yet, it has taken a long while for these technologies and applications to find a larger, ready market in India. What steps are needed to evangelise AR/ VR technologies & apps in the Indian market, more so in the OOH advertising space?

It is quite interesting to see the advent of these technologies. Both AR and VR are not new technologies, having been around for more than a few decades. Yet there remains a lack of awareness among the wider consumer audience.

The fact of the matter is that AR has been in our lives for years – used most commonly in weather reports on the news and in live sports broadcasts. AR is quite literally the augmentation (or improvement) of reality – altered with an overlay of information on a pre-existing line of sight. The difference in today’s experience is that handheld devices have replaced televisions – but the application of the basic technology has remained consistent.

In comparison, VR  is where the consumer of the technology is fully immersed in the virtual world. Common experiences include experience capsules at science museums, but due to cost implications, has been used more in a commercial sense for medical or training purposes. Once again, handheld devices have made the experience more accessible – but application of the concept remains the same.

Beyond the evolution of hardware, campaigns have too often been utilised as one-off flash-in-the-pan attempts to display brands “innovatively” – whereas at Appearition we believe that AR is a media channel, more than just a solution. A media channel, just like print, radio, television, web and mobile, before it. Just as a brand would identify a core messaging and then develop creatives and iterations for television or print – and more recently digital, concepts need to be developed to funnel through this medium – enhancing the consumer experience but staying completely aligned to core messaging.

As a media channel, the right utilisation of these technologies enable the overlay of contextual information that enables decision making including purchase decisions – a key goal of any brand managers. In a nation as broad as India this enables the application of custom language communication depending on an automatic identification of the user’s location or pre-defined preferences. In the OOH space this enables experiences triggered by the once creative – but absolutely customised to the user being exposed to the experience – be they Punjabi,  Bengali, Marathi or Tamil. This is quite powerful as a method of customised engagement.

How effective are VR/AR applications in OOH advertising in the more developed markets? Have you handled any such project in those markets?

JCDecaux recently finished a campaign where they had integrated an AR application with Batman and Superman. The opportunity was for passers-by to “evolve” into their favourite superhero. The novelty factor was very high and it certainly had a very positive response. Tesco also had a highly successful campaign where consumers could “do their shopping” whilst waiting for their bus; the AR experience was triggered off by the media board on the bus stop.

Our approach to AR is to be more of an integrated solution. We haven’t been involved in outdoor specific advertising in that context. We have however been involved in several projects where outdoor based navigation that triggers off AR experience.This was used to promote tourism. Furthermore, we have been involved in arts and theatre productions, open days, etc. The point to consider is that a brand needs to have specific content for its AR channel just as it would for the other audio-visual channels. There needs to be an overall degree of consistency in how this content is being presented and the shift needs to be in the eyes of the brand manager to move away from thinking of this area as a novelty technology solution and start to incorporate it into planning as a new communication channel. There would have been a similar shift at the introduction of each new media – initially an exciting new innovation, but eventually just another medium as part of a multi-platform approach.

Are AR/VR applications more attuned to indoor advertising media, such as airport media, mall media, etc? Is there scope for their application on traditional billboards and the like?

Absolutely. Let’s consider a sample scenario – assume a brand wishes to launch a soft drink in a nationwide campaign. The brand manager would have content and campaigns ready for the traditional channels – print, web, mall media, etc. If we take the approach mentioned earlier where we see AR as just another media channel – it provides a novel fashion to present the launch campaign. However, it also offers the opportunity to merge other media through an integrated approach.

An AR app can be configured such that based on the temperature of the city that the consumer is in while using the app, it could initiate push message featuring specific discounts or promotions. Essentially the consumer experience when triggering off the billboard may be vastly different based on whether it is a 30-degree day or 20-degree day. Secondly the same AR app could attract on-premise customers where they take the app into a store in order to redeem vouchers  (vouchers redeemed off packing of the product), and last but not least, integration of location based e-commerce component.

This is the power of an integrated AR solution; it can spread across all traditional media channels and can bring them to life. The key to success here is not to treat them as once-off campaign, but have them all tightly linked.

Source:  Outdoor Asia | November 2016

Follow this space for part-2 of the interview.