Google is hoping to increase user engagement with advertisers on YouTube through interactive augmented reality features in videos.
This week at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, Google is showing off a new AR tool for video creators that adds a layer of interaction—it’s starting with its beauty brands vertical, letting viewers digitally try on makeup products while watching tutorials and reviews.
The feature—which is in alpha testing with YouTube’s FameBit branded content studio—is already being tested with brands like MAC Cosmetics to promote various shades of lipstick. If a viewer likes how the lipstick looks, they can then click on a link to buy it through MAC’s website. To use the AR, users will need to use their front-facing camera within YouTube’s mobile app, where they’ll be able to browse products.
“It really enables them to take that connection that already exists between fans and creators and that engagement that already exists on the YouTube platform and take it a step further,” said Doreen Dinour, FameBit’s brand partner lead.
According to Dinour, early tests with brands led to “extremely strong engagement,” with 30% of viewers trying the AR lipstick and for total time spent per person of around 80 seconds. And while the company is starting with beauty brands, Dinour said it will roll out to other categories later this year—possibly to food and beverage, media or entertainment brands and creators.
YouTube’s newest advertising products will likely feel very familiar to anyone who’s been paying attention to the beauty industry’s use of AR technology for the past few years. In fact, MAC Cosmetics created its own in-store AR try-on mirror back in 2017. At Cannes last year, L’Oréal debuted augmented reality and livestream tools of its own a little more than a year after acquiring the AR startup ModiFace. And then there’s Snapchat, which has been a pioneer of AR brand integrations with a whole variety of AR lenses.
YouTube’s addition of AR is just the latest use of the emerging technology for Google. Following last year’s release of the ARCore app on Android devices, the company in May released AR features for Google Search and Google Lens.
Along with with the AR updates for YouTube, Google is also making digital ads units more interesting. Today, the company also announced a way for brands to bring three-dimensional assets to display ads. The mobile web format, called Swirl, lets viewers rotate or zoom in and out of 360-degree videos and images of products.
To give advertisers more control over their 3D assets, Google is rolling out a new editor called Poly, which lets marketers change animations, customize backgrounds and add other effects. The format is also still in beta, with brands including New Balance testing it out. The ads will be charged on a CPM basis like other digital ads, according to Aaron Luber, head of commercialization for augmented & virtual reality at Google.
“I have to say that things like Google Lens, our investments with ARCore, brands are being very leaned-in and very smart,” he said. “[Advertisers] are trying to push the medium into places that make a lot of sense for what’s good for them.”