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Focusing On an Augmented Reality Strategy

Seth Adler of All Things Insights sat down with Bhaskaran to chat about the drive to develop augmented reality, how consumers are thinking about the format, how it works, best practices and what are the challenges and opportunities to deploy AR successfully as part of the marketing mix.

Your session was the culmination of two to three years of work that you’ve done around augmented reality.

“It’s a very important part of Snapchat as a platform, because we open up to the camera. And right there, you can play with the lenses,” says Bhaskaran. “What we wanted to do is bust a few myths, challenge a few stereotypes, kind of lay the groundwork for why AR is important. It’s not just a fad. What are consumers currently expecting from AR and what’s the gap with marketers? And how do you practically implement augmented reality and share some of the best practices that we have noticed on the platform.”

Let’s talk about the actual practical uses of AR, some that are maybe not so obvious.

Bhaskaran observes, “One of the key things we noticed is the huge perception disconnect that there is between advertisers and consumers. To advertisers, I think AR is still pretty much in the realm of fun, entertainment, something that you do to pass the time. But what we’ve actually noticed is that for consumers, it’s moved more towards utility. And the number one reason why consumers want to use AR is for shopping. It’s accelerated because of growth in e commerce. So they are now more open to trying on clothes virtually, let’s say, or even shoes. The benefits are multiple for a consumer. It provides them with more confidence in their decision making and reduces returns. And it’s still fun. It’s still a shareable experience. There’s a swing in terms of purpose for which AR is used and I don’t think the industry has caught up yet.”

That gap that you discussed between consumers and advertisers—why is there that gap with advertisers in the industry from your perception?

She says, “It’s multifold. I think one, there are advertisers for whom there’s interest but they just don’t know how to execute. And they think that it’s something that requires huge investment. It takes a lot of leadership push top down to make something happen. Even if they have that interest, then what next? There are others who still have that perception that it’s a fad, that it’s something fun, whereas for my brand it’s something serious and it’s about seeking more utility. The third is the ones who are interested and start to go down this path of AR. What is needed is also a very clear strategy on why you want to use AR and how. That’s the constant education that we need, because for many of them, I think they just want to do it, but they do not know how.”

What is it about the metrics or strategies that advertisers perhaps aren’t seeing?

Bhaskaran says, “A lot of this has to do with how you even think about augmented reality. It’s treated as this one off, this tent pole execution that you do, where you have a fun lens, let’s say, for example, you’re a brand that’s sponsoring a sporting event like the Super Bowl. You have a lens where you could play around and guess your favorite team, and then you get the kit of your favorite team, and that’s it. They stop there. And they’re like, we got this great. We got a lot of buzz, we got a whole bunch of impressions, we’re using AR. People share the experience, and it just stops there.”

She continues, “But I think what is needed is, OK, it’s worked. Now can I see other uses for it? Just like how I have a video strategy, how I have a display strategy, I need to think about how I have an AR strategy. Some advertisers are already along that path but it’s the mentality that needs to change. For instance, don’t go after a KPI that’s very much buzz focused, but treat it as you would any other media. So that way if your objective is upper funnel, you would have those kinds of goals. If you’re a lower funnel, yes, you do want a target of certain click-through rates or perhaps like a click to site and so on.”

Let’s get to those that do still see this as hype—like conversations around the metaverse. We know that we’re going there, eventually, it’s just going to take way more time than we thought.

“A lot of people probably don’t realize AR has been around for a decade now,” she adds. “It’s a technology that has gotten better every year. Now it’s also gotten beyond the app. As an advertiser, you could use it in your site, could use it in store, if you’re a retailer, probably you have the equipment. It’s getting more scalable. Because everything is lumped together, I think that’s where the perception that AR is still fun, because you still think of the gaming space, but you have avatars and those kinds of things. But what we have seen is because we’ve worked with that format for ten years, we have seen the evolution from how it started out as entertainment, but it’s evolved now to beyond that to utility.”

For those that you see strategy from, how are they focusing? Of course, every business is going to be different. What kinds of conversations are there around strategy?

Bhaskaran says, “A lot of the conversations probably moved from, let’s do AR for an event to how do I incorporate it into an always-on strategy. Then it goes from always-on media strategy to always-on retail strategy. You’re starting to get very practical about what is the goal I want for my AR ad unit. That’s part of the media mix. Do I want it to be more awareness building? Do I want something to be more action oriented? Then you start thinking very practical questions around flighting, what’s the mix, what percentage of my media do I allocate to this ad unit? What creative best practices and features do I include?”

Watch the complete video from the Media Insights & Engagement Conference as Seth Adler and Aarti Bhaskaran discuss AR, from outcomes, brand growth and brand building, to pitfalls and opportunities in various categories.


  • Seth Adler

    Seth Adler heads up All Things Insights & All Things Innovation. He has spent his career bringing people together around content. He has a dynamic background producing events, podcasts, video, and the written word.

    View all posts
  • Matt Kramer

    Matthew Kramer is the Digital Editor for All Things Insights & All Things Innovation. He has over 20 years of experience working in publishing and media companies, on a variety of business-to-business publications, websites and trade shows.

    View all posts

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