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How Rich Media Just Got Richer: Pokémon Go & the Rise of Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality

Pokémon Go has swept the world into a frenzy and has really provided a vision of what the future, steeped in augmented reality, could look like. For digital advertisers, it’s opened up a whole new realm of connecting with their audiences. So, what’s next? Maximilian Seeburg (pictured below), director, Videobeat Networks tells ExchangeWire that the possibilities for augmented reality are endless and, with Pokémon Go bringing the medium to the forefront, it is important to continue to embrace technology, but not lose sight along the way.

In the wake of what could easily be described as Pikachu’s ‘Second Coming’, many smartphone owners have been gripped in the frenzy of the worldwide phenomenon that is Pokémon Go. Overtaking technological behemoths in just a matter of days, it has been measured that the average user spends more time in Pokémon Go than Facebook on their phone (33 minutes on Pokémon Go to 22 on Facebook), and is netting close to seven million downloads and earning a staggering USD$15.7m (£12m) in revenue per day.

But aside from the heady success of Pokémon Go’s launch, which many perceive to be a triumph in minimalist marketing, what bears more scrutiny are the channels for marketing and advertising through this augmented reality platform. Aside from the common-or-garden in-app purchases that ordinary consumers may purchase, Niantic (the company behind the creation of Pokémon Go), have released a statement to advertisers and businesses – showing them the advertising potential that Pokémon Go could provide tech-savvy businesses. Using a concept called ‘sponsored locations’, businesses are able to pay for rare Pokémon to visit specific locales, thus attracting extra footfall from excited users who are desperate to add the Pokémon to their collection, and companies are then charged on a ‘cost-per-visit’ basis, akin to the ‘cost-per-click’ method already in place online. One does not need to look far to see evidence of the effectiveness of such a method – only a few days ago in New York, hordes of users stampeded across Central Park in order to catch a rare monster that had appeared there in a scene that was oddly reminiscent of a Black Friday sale.

Maximilian Seeburg | Videobeat NetworksBut this advertising potential isn’t just in the realms of hypothesis, it’s already being used by companies as we speak. For example, in Japan, a leaked email chain from McDonald’s has shown the company’s exclusive agreement with Niantic to turn 3,000 restaurants in Japan into ‘Gyms’, locations where players can duel with other players for supremacy. The leaked email led to a 10% rise in McDonald’s Japan’s share price as investor confidence soared following the revelation. This type of activity is only a taste of things to come: small, independent companies have already reported a huge increase in their footfall and revenue from simple actions as purchasing and using ‘lures’, an in-game item that drives Pokémon to an area for 30 minutes, and is visible to everyone nearby, luring them to the location as well.

Pokémon and childhood nostalgia aside, the real winners here, apart from Nintendo, Niantic and, of course, Google, are the proponents of augmented reality – who have been looking for a suitable platform in order to raise public awareness of the technology. Augmented reality, a technology that allows for a computer-generated image to be superimposed into the regular world, thus creating a composite view, has been around for a number of years, and is only now just starting to come to the fore. With Pokémon Go, we have a perfect example of what our technology is now capable of; but what of its future, and the impact that it will have on advertising in the future?

Writing from a chair within a video advertising agency, now would be an obvious time for me to launch into the possibilities that augmented reality provides for video advertising. An interesting implication to consider is the change in the nature of video advertising with the introduction of augmented reality. Previously, a video advertisement was a simple piece of recording that might contain an actor who is hired specifically for the purpose of helping to drive the message of the advert. Within augmented reality, the customer becomes an integral part of the experience, a classic example of such advertising being Lynx’s latest stunt in London Victoria to promote their new ‘Excite’ line. During the stunt, a member of the public stood in a marked and filmed spot on the floor, and was joined by superimposed moving image of an ‘angel’, which was then broadcast to the entire station.

Although this might seem initially quite trivial, what we are witnessing here is the first step in the evolution of video advertising, where rich media is not something that is simply observed and appreciated – rather it has demonstrated that it is something that is truly engaging and participatory. It is this engaging aspect of augmented reality that makes it so tantalising for many advertisers; the long sought-after holy grail in which the audience are required to interact with their advert, guaranteeing their attention – if only for the briefest of moments. And certainly, done in the right way, with the right targeting, format and specific style – I have no doubt that an advertiser will be able to create adverts that are not only engaging, but are such that people will actively seek them out, bringing along their friends and families in order to share in the experience.

Indeed, the many possibilities of augmented reality are dizzying – for both consumers and marketers. For instance, let us look at the potential for targeting capabilities that augmented reality can offer us; currently in development is an augmented reality social app called ZeeWhere, which can allow users to easily single out other users in a particular locale, and share information with them such as photos and videos. As all of this information is being uploaded in real-time, marketers could potentially use this geo-specific data to know exactly how to target their audience: someone is sitting in a particular stand of a sports venue? Target them with an advert about odds for the game, or the new beer that is in stock at the nearby concessions stand. Not only this, but the creative possibilities for such types of technologies are excellent as well, just like Absolut have recently introduced an augmented reality app, where photographs taken of a particular label on their bottles will lead to videos demonstrating how the vodka is made, so too could people take pictures of other items, and receive an in-depth advert encouraging them to purchase.

The pinnacle augmented reality that many are seeking to head towards would be through a wearable device (think Google Glass, the exciting – but criminally unstylish – headset made by Alphabet). With a wearable device, the entire world could be a blank canvas in which to display, with augmented reality, related media, allowing incredible reach, engagement, and creative possibilities.

However, this is not without its dangers: an interesting short film, ‘Hyper-reality‘, was recently made that provided a somewhat dystopian outlook of the future of augmented reality, in which a consumer faces an almost constant barrage of adverts, notices, and other rich media in order to block out the bleakness of normal life. While this can be passed off as nothing more than a over-exaggerated fantasy, it is important to note that such grievances as popups and adware are largely borne out of the internet expanding rapidly, with little opportunity for regulatory bodies to keep it in check, highlighting that something similar to this could absolutely be possible if left to develop on its own.

Ultimately, any particular debate regarding advertising capabilities, or ethics within augmented reality, is somewhat redundant; the technology is here, it is being used, and people are already finding more and more sophisticated ways to utilise what is currently available, and will continue to do so for the years to come. It’s a brave new world, one that should be met with equal parts excitement and trepidation so that we do not lose sight of what is important along the way. In the meantime, I’ve a Charmander to catch.