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3-D technology is seeing a resurgance in theaters, with new films trying to improve the technology and bring more viewers into theaters, and online marketers are starting to experiment as well. A new technology called augmented reality (or AR) lets consumers play with hologram-like images through their web cameras. Brands are beginning to integrate the technology into their online marketing campaigns.

And the companies are not all cutting edge new media brands. Those testing out AR include Papa John's, General Electric, and The Postal Service.

According to the Wall Street Journal:

"This week, the Postal Service will start running an ad campaign that touts a flat-rate shipping fee for its Priority Mail service. The online portion of the ad effort includes a "virtual box simulator" on the prioritymail.com site. The simulator allows consumers to hold an object, such as a cup or a book, in front of a Webcam and use the resulting 3-D image to determine the right size box for shipping the object."

The new technology is certainly fun. But it has more than a few trappings of fad about it. Papa John's for instance, is putting AR images on 30 million pizza boxes starting in June. Customers can go to a dedicated Web site, hold the image up to a Webcam and view an animated, 3-D 1972 Camaro on screen. The Camaro is relevant to Papa John's because it is the car that the company's CEO, John Schnatter, sold in 1984 to start his first pizza place. It also coincides with a cross-country trip Mr. Schnatter is incorporating into the company's larger marketing strategy.

The technology is sure to impress a few pizza customers, but once they use it, are they going to come back for more pizza? It depends on how well companies integrate AR into their marketing strategy.

USPS's strategy has the benefit of being useful. And promoting the company's tech savy in a market that is increasingly being squeezed by companies like FedEx and UPS.

And GE has seen a boost from their AR attempts. Their campaign focused on finding new forms of energy. Their AR image showed a 3-D wind farm with three wind turbines that viewers could interact with. More than one million visitors have gone to GE's Eco Smart Grid site since it launched in February, and over 25% of them spend more than five minutes on the site.

Papa John's hopes to integrate coupons and special discounts into its AR campaign, and its success there depends on how useful consumers find their attempts.

AR allows for a new level of engagement that brands are craving. While only about 18% of the nation's 68.5 million broadband households have web cams according to Parks Associates research firm, that number is quickly rising. If brands use AR in smart ways, the usability will get there.

Photo: WSJ

Meghan Keane

Published 26 May, 2009 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

721 more posts from this author

Comments (5)

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Ged Carroll

I think that it will be a future, since it offers an integration point for marketing campaigns, at the end of the day its a creative execution rather than a strategy.

over 7 years ago

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Pia Roxas

One of the more intelligent applications of AR I've found. No surprise that it's the gaming industry that's well ahead http://bit.ly/au1ph.

over 7 years ago

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Tunde Cockshott

The uses cited in this article demonstrate both marketing and utility based applications. Originally AR was developed as a functional tool to support tasks where an augmented reality would allow the user to perform better or with more information than a non augmented user. While these applications do exist in industry few utilities have made it into the mainstream. The example of LastMinute.com's radar tool working on Android, and the iPhone Wikitude travel guide are two of the few that provide real utility. But this does not mean that there are not countless other areas where such beneficial applications could be developed. 

The recent buzz around AR has been primarily driven by marketing applications where the novelty and genuine "wow" factor makes the user experience extra special. However, there are several barriers to AR becoming a more mainstream marketing and functional tool.

Untill AR viewers become available for mobile phones and widely installed, AR will continue to live either in as a cool technology for exhibition spaces, conference presentations or as a desk bound experience. Having to take a marketing message to your PC to view it is a barrier.Likewise having  useful AR utilities you can employ when out and about has greater potential.

The second issue is that there are no standard or dominant AR viewers or generation systems. Each viewer only displays AR content generated for that instance of the viewer. Once we have general purpose viewers, mobile and desk bound,  which can read a standard AR format then we will start to realise the true potential of AR. I would argue  these obsticles can be overcome, and some companies are already working in this area. Therefore Ar is not a fad but will become mainstream in the near furtue.

over 7 years ago

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andrea carignano

I want to share a post on my blog where I talk of usage of AR as a business toll rather than a marketing/advertising tool. http://www.seac02.it/blog/, let me know your opinion.

over 7 years ago

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Anthony

if you would like to see a AR as an excellent business tool, hit up www.DaeVision.com

You can load in your own media into the Viewer on the fly and it will generate unique Embed Codes and URLs for you to use on your sites.

I used it a few times for my site and its pretty cool.

over 6 years ago

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