Connecting Through Augmented Campaigns

Esquire’s director of design last week showed off his foray into the world of “augmented reality” at a Sobel Media event in Manhattan. David Curcurito created a December cover featuring Robert Downey, Jr., seated atop a box with a marker on it. After a download, a consumer can scan that marker in front of a webcam and, much like a barcode at the supermarket, the computer recognizes that data and provides additional content.

In this case, you can suddenly see on your computer Downey traipsing through magazine pages, and other celeb interviews. The digital project generated 45,000 downloads.

Curcurito was accompanied by a high-powered, high-tech panel – including “innovation catalyst” David Polinchick, Doug Dimon of Creative Bubble, and Adam Broitman of – to discuss and define augmented reality (AR) for brands and other digital onlookers.

AR was developed 20 years ago to simulate air combat for soldiers; eventually morphing into a new marketing tool for companies like Esquire. According to the panel, an open-source program was just recently made available with AR, making it far more accessible. Now, marketers are wracking their creative minds to come up with effective campaigns that can overlay virtual world information into the real world.

Some future AR campaigns discussed at the panel include:
• Burger King’s dollar bill menu, where users hold a dollar bill up to their webcam and get an AR burger. It also puts the king pin on your head.
• Zombie, Run!, a mobile game which pulls you out of your own reality to avoid the critters in your actual physical neighborhood. Looking into your phone and yelling every time you spot a zombie: always fun way to turn heads.
• MIT’s Bokode creation, a holograph that releases data when a camera lens focuses on it. Bokodes can be used while grocery shopping to help customers learn more about the food they’re putting in their carts.

Authenticity and transparency are everywhere with Augmented Reality – whether you want it to be or not. Ad agencies are teaming up with AR experts and getting into hyper-digital-creative mode to create some very cool, new ideas. The effectiveness of this marketing style remains to be seen – maybe on an overlayed screen near you.

Image courtesy of Tim Dwight Photography