The unfulfilled potential of Augmented Reality


Augmented Reality has been used to great effect in a handful of cases – but the publishing industry has largely ignored these innovations. Harry Wake, from the press team at Amplifi, argues that it’s time the print press seized on the opportunity and used Augmented Reality to win over readers.

Augmented reality press marketing magazine advertising heat magazine

Shortly after joining Carat I was treated to a presentation from Blippar, which took me back to childhood feelings of awe as I witnessed the technology recognise a can of coke and immediately access a Spotify sponsored playlist.

Then there was a Blippar creative for Maybelline that enabled users to place coloured virtual nails on their own nails. For the most part this was just a bit of fun but in practice it resulted in over four minutes of dwell time from consumers. This level of interaction begs the question - why is AR not a more heavily used medium?

Recently after completing research into the children’s market I observed that despite some of the character-based titles fading due to the decrease in popularity of their featured cartoon, there are a few that are still going strong despite a general decline in print circulations. This is due, in part, to children’s love of the free toy and isn’t this what AR can be for adults?

I’m not suggesting that we need a video game or toy attached to our purchases but maybe that little bit more.

The use of AR in editorial has been scarce in comparison to advertising; there are examples such as ‘Sainsbury’s Magazine’ which used AR to unlock exclusive materials with top chefs showing how to cook a meal and a message from the editor. Heat are also well known for using AR to deliver exclusive access to interviews and videos, a feature that has been very popular, leading to 79,000 downloads of their ‘Heat’ dedicated AR app.

The beauty of reading magazines is the experience, you get to hold it, and enjoy the rich quality of pictures and editorial, but it falls behind the digital version in its level of interactivity, as online content includes video interviews, events or tutorials.

It is my view that AR’s place isn’t just in advertising, but instead is the key to unlocking a deeper relationship with print readers.

AR as a way of offering more and exclusive material to the user experience seems a great way of keeping consumer loyalty to the print versions. Digital and print do not needed to be wholly separate entities and their overlapping could be what brings the best experience for the consumer.

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article stating “Augmented Reality Finally Starts to Gain Traction”; however it also emphasises that there are several issues holding it back. The problems include poor labelling of material that has AR capabilities, difficulties in downloading the tech at point of interaction (eg. Underground) and finally the gimmicky image.

There are ways around these issues however. The improper labelling is relatively simple and requires more investment in creative materials to include effective prompts to download the software and increased advertising for consumer awareness. The issue of consumers having the app is more difficult and will require phone manufacturers to include AR apps as default. Unfortunately AR is not big enough for manufactures to include it on its own merit and AR cannot grow enough without the help.

The gimmicky image is something that will have to be remedied over time but unfortunately poor quality early material has tarnished the image. AR was less “added value” but rather just “added”. Looking at more recent AR creative materials it is clear that there is a great potential for them to unlock new and exciting ways for readers to consume their favourite print titles.

AR is a great opportunity for print media as a way of enhancing and diversifying their offering without having to drive consumers online. Understandably there are reservations about AR’s compatibility with print and whether it is a suitable extension to the media but for many titles AR can unlock plenty of fantastic and value-adding materials as shown by ‘Heat’. The big question now is - will it ever happen? I certainly hope so as it has great potential to add significantly to publishers’ offerings.

Augmented reality press marketing magazine advertising heat magazine
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