Billabong has become the latest company to use augmented reality technology (AR) in an interactive ad campaign.

The sports brand is using Augmented Reality(AR) app Zappar to allow consumers to interact with its instore, online and print advertising.

By using Zappar on Billabong’s ‘Life’s better in board shorts’ ads, consumers gain access to videos of surfers and are linked to a dedicated microsite.

The Billabong campaign signals a growing trend for brands to use interactive ads.

QR codes are becoming increasingly prevalent. We reported on eBay and John Lewis experimenting with the technology to drive mobile sales in the run up to Christmas.

AR is billed as being a step ahead of QR codes as it can offer users a more interactive experience through the use of 3D imagery, audio and videos.

Zappar’s app offers similar functionality to Blippar, which launched an AR campaign with Waitrose in November, and has been used other brands, including Tesco and Heinz. 

Connell Gauld, Zappar’s platform director, says the difference between his AR app and others on the market is the motivation behind the campaigns.

We only want to use AR technology where it genuinely adds something o the user experience. It’s easy to use AR where it looks good but doesn’t actually add anything of value for the user. 

Gauld said that AR could easily become a fad if brands don’t use it correctly, with its primary function being for entertainment for the time being.

Zappar has been involved in AR ad campaigns with Warner Brothers for films such as Green Lantern and Happy Feet 2.

In its current form it’s difficult to think of more functional uses for this technology. With entertainment you have got content there already and AR backs it up and makes the user feel like they are part of it. 

The AR campaign fits well with Billabong’s brand as the technology should appeal to its target audience of image-conscious teenagers and young adults.

However, though the technology looks cool (note that the video demo uses an iPad), the app leads users to a microsite that is not mobile optimised, which is missing a trick. 

Mobile response mechanisms like AR and QR can work well, but the whole user journey needs to be considered. Having a mobile optimised landing page is a must. 

If the aim is to get potential customers to scan using their mobiles, then leading them to webpage that is hard to use on a mobile undermines the effort made in attracting them to the page.