Santander’s Powerful AR Experience Shows the Misunderstood Realities of Homelessness

The bank puts you 'In Someone Else's Shoes'

The story of Jen, a homeless woman with a full-time job, plays out in front of you through the bank's AR app. Santander Bank
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Jen doesn’t like to complain about her circumstances or ask for help, even with her mother. Instead, she wakes up before dawn and gets ready for work in her car, where she’s living.

She’s one bad break—or some unpaid parking tickets—away from complete financial ruin.

The 35-year-old nurse’s assistant and others like her are at the heart of a short film and augmented-reality app from Santander Bank in Boston and agency Arnold. The project, called “In Someone Else’s Shoes,” spotlights a little known statistic within the homeless population: 25 percent are employed—some, like Jen, with full-time jobs—but can’t afford to keep a roof over their heads.

The brand calls it a “social impact initiative” with several goals, among them changing perceptions of the working homeless and raising money for permanent housing.

“This piece of content was purposely designed to put the viewer in the subject’s shoes and see things from a different point of view,” James Bray, Arnold’s executive creative director, says. By using immersive AR technology, the partners want people “to empathize and connect with the character.”

As captured in the short film, viewers teared up as they watched Jen try to find a safe place to sleep at night and face the challenges, stress and loneliness of the streets alone.

Santander wants to “reshape the narrative around this issue and help close the respect gap” of a misunderstood demographic, the bank’s co-president, Michael Cleary, says.

The Android and iOS app (available on the Apple App Store and Google Play) draws from the real experiences of people like Kate, who worked two jobs and still couldn’t provide for her family. She appears in the documentary-style film, along with an executive from Heading Home, a nonprofit group that helps the homeless in the Boston area.

The app launches Thursday and, for every download, Santander will donate $1 to organizations like Heading Home. It’s the latest effort under the “In Someone Else’s Shoes” banner, where Santander and Arnold last month launched interactive art installations in high-traffic locations around Boston and a pedometer app. More than 2,000 people engaged with those experiences, and 4,800 people downloaded the pedometer app, driving upward of $200,000 in donations.



@TLStanleyLA T.L. Stanley is a senior editor at Adweek, where she specializes in consumer trends, cannabis marketing, meat alternatives, pop culture, challenger brands and creativity.