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P&G Tries Augmented Reality

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Procter & Gamble is testing the waters for “augmented reality,” a form of digital technology that's driving a new campaign for Always Infinity. The packaged goods giant hopes to give consumers ways to interact with its ads like never before.

The fem care brand is among the first P&G brands to use AR, which combines real-time and digital footage to create an on-screen image via a Web cam. Advanced cell phone technology has also allowed iPhone users to download an image and hold it up to their screen, producing the same results. P&G's campaign includes both paper-to-screen and a mobile component.

The packaged goods giant is running print ads in September issues of teen magazines, including Seventeen, Star and Teen Vogue. The ad, available for download via Always.com/3D, asks consumers to print it out, hold it up to their Web cams and watch a “magic trick” come to life. The result is a white rabbit that pops out of a magician’s hat (the image on the page), along with the words, “irresistibly soft.”

Like P&G's current campaign, “Works like magic,” the new effort, via ad agencies Digitas in Boston and Chicago’s Leo Burnett, is meant to build awareness for its Always Infinity brand, which boasts super absorption powers. (Always Infinity launched last October.)

Lela Coffey, North American associate marketing director for Always, said the campaign’s premise is centered on the reaction the brand often gets from consumers. Teenage girls often exclaim, “How could a pad do what it just did for me?” after experiencing Always’ absorption and leakage protection powers for themselves, she said.

Though P&G is usually considered as one of the most cutting-edge consumer packaged goods companies, Coffey said the brand had never heard of AR until its agency partner brought it up. Other companies like General Electric, Topps and, most recently, Zugara, have experimented with the technology.

“What we find with fem care consumers is, while she likes to see TV and print . . . she does prefer some modicum of privacy as she seeks more information on this product.” Augmented reality, with its ability to merge the physical and the digital worlds, was the perfect solution, Coffey said.

When asked where the brand is taking this next, Coffey said Always will continue to look for “innovative [ways of] marketing” in the digital space. Sibling fem care brand Tampax recently launched a series of webisodes that chronicles a teenage boy’s dilemma over losing his “guy parts.”

Always’s 2008 media expenditure totaled $61 million across all outlets, per TNS Media Intelligence. Of that amount, $2 million was spent on Internet advertising only.