Brands and Agencies Are Starting to Experiment With Google Glass

Despite the tiny user base and aesthetic challenges

Google Glass’ role in advertising and content may be a bit out of focus—but initial use of the nascent technology may change that perception, as agencies and brands prepare for a wearable ad tech future.

Kenneth Cole recently became the first advertiser to incorporate a Google Glass app into its marketing—just one of the new ways the Internet specs are used to sell products. “Even though the technology is still in the pilot program, we want to be looked at as an innovator and early adopter,” said Lauren Nutt Bello, partner at Ready Set Rocket, a firm working for Kenneth Cole.

So the agency built an app for Google Glass to go along with the launch of a new cologne. The theme of the campaign is gentlemanly behavior and encourages chivalry. The app prompts users to photograph themselves accomplishing a good deed a day for 21 days.

The effort could do some good for Google Glass’ image as well, since the new technology already faces a growing backlash. “One of the criticisms leveled at wearable tech is that it makes people more insular and more wrapped up in their devices rather than interacting with the world about them,” said Gareth Price, technical director at Ready Set Rocket.

Just last week, a woman wearing Glass in a popular San Francisco bar claimed she was assaulted after fellow revelers accused her of secretly video recording them. And Google recently released a primer to prod early users to be respectful lest they be labeled “Glassholes.”

Google has only sold an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 glasses to “explorers” who apply to a pilot program. They currently cost $1,500 but are expected to sell more widely later this year.

That means few will actually see any Glass-related marketing. But early Glass advertisers seem aware this is experimentation rather than reach. “It feels like we’re building for how ad campaigns will work three to five years in the future,” Price said.

Last week at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, Blippar showed off new marketing technology for Glass—an augmented reality app that delivers content triggered by real-world interactions. For instance, a wearer might see a billboard that Blippar’s software recognizes, then sets off a Glass experience.

The Weather Channel, a major platform for digital advertising, also tinkers with wearable technology, said Kevin Doerr, svp of digital products. To his thinking, the biggest drawback to widespread adoption of Glass is the look—it’s still too bulky.

Weather doesn’t yet have an app for Glass, but the company does test it and smartwatches internally—and could eventually deliver advertising and content targeting users and their locations. “You’ll see us begin to ship products for some of the leading wearable devices this year,” said Doerr.