Augmented reality has been one of the next big things in advertising for a while. So long so in fact that it sort of fell off the radar for a bit. Think of Google Glass as the perfect metaphor for the concept – ahead of it’s time and not yet ready (for whatever reason) to get picked up by a wider audience.
 
Then this happened. And this.
 
The future is suddenly upon us, and as people show willingness to chase down rare Pokémon, they also indicate a comfort about using AR as a normal part of their day. Focusing for the moment on mobiles (although we fully expect wearable tech to come back and own us all before too long), AR app use, and associated ad serving, is going to reach a tipping point and become huge. And here are two reasons why:
 
Advancements in image recognition technology and media space. Lots and lots of unowned, free-to-develop media space.
 
The all important rhetorical question was asked by Si Brown (CMO and co-founder of AR development firm Skignz) in his Wired Retail talk last year: “Who actually does own the sky?”
 
The problem with reality (in this case at least), is that prime ad space is already pretty heavily branded. Augmented reality offers brands a way into the clutter. Whether through informative or stimulating content, or simple price undercutting (Brown talks about a theoretical Tesco shopper being tempted to shop at Asda through judicious AR), the augmented media level is quickly going to become as important as any other type of media.
 
Vast improvements in image recognition technology and the micro-localised nature of AR will allow brands to target consumers based on, precisely, what they are looking at. Snapchat, for example, appears to be developing an ad-overlay system that can deliver ads based on the objects you are taking pictures of. It isn’t a huge leap to imagine brand bidding to reach customers with that level of consumer understanding.
 
As well as focusing on the localised nature of the technology, any media that is able to offer the consumer information that is useful is always going to have a chance of breaking through. Skignz developed an app for Glastonbury festival that allowed the user to not only see the running order of the stage the device was pointed at, but also to offer discounted albums of the relevant artists too.
 
With other big players all developing (or just buying) AR related technology, we anticipate in the near term having to redefine what we mean when we talk about a media mix.