Augmented reality and the search for ROI

The lure of augmented reality has been overshadowed by robots and drones but it has the ability to work powerfully for brands, writes digital consultant Alexandra Tohme

There’s always one tech-obsessed creative at an advertising or media agency who will find merit in suggesting an Augmented Reality (AR) application as a response to a client brief. However, justifying the return on investment has not necessarily been as forthcoming.

For events and exhibitions, the technology can work powerfully for brands that want to capitalise on buyer interest, working as complementary to – or even in lieu of – printed collateral. For the public sector – not usually known for its creativity – the use of AR to engage citizens and educate them on important sections of governance can be highly effective.

One example of this is the My Virtual Home app by the Sheikh Zayed Housing Programme, which users could engage with at home and was executed by Dubai-based digital agency Takeleap. It provided visualisation of the architectural model of villas developed by the programme, allowing users to take a virtual tour. Another agency, B.U.T, also delivered AR solutions for the Regulation and Supervision Bureau (the independent body for the regulation of Water and Electricity in Abu Dhabi) for attendees during the 2015 World Future Energy Summit.

Education through technology is not typically tied to a quantifiable ROI, however brand studies following AR interaction compared with brand studies after a traditional campaign should reveal that the customer is not only aware of the brand, but more importantly, has a better understanding of how the brand is relevant to them.

DannyElEidDany El Eid, CEO, and Dennis Kruger, CTO, Pixelbug

Dany El Eid, founder of Pixelbug, a Dubai-based AR technology firm, says: “Depth of engagement not breadth is important for brands competing for mind share.”

Pixelbug’s work with Nestlé during 2014 led to a 9 per cent increase in sales for its Nesquik brand targeting six to 12-year-olds. He credits this to the fact the AR component was triggered whilst the product was in use in the home environment, bringing the product to life and making a powerful product/engagement connection.

This concept is the subject of many research papers which state that virtual experiences make the customer-brand relation more effective through the psychological states of presence and belonging to the proximity of the ad, involvement with its brand/product advertised, and entertainment offered. Studies also suggest that there is a constant connection within any medium; between the human mind, the technology and the environment that serves to immerse users resulting in augmented learning, altered behaviour, and a perceived sense of control. “As a result, consumers, particularly children, may feel a heightened degree of intrinsic motivation, intense concentration and enjoyment while engaging in these technology interactions,” wrote Barrie Gunter in Kids and Branding in a Digital World.

It was these findings that supported McDonald’s use of AR on its packaging for fries during the 2014 Fifa World Cup. Users were able to play a virtual game of football using just their phone and the packaging.

AR technology doesn’t just apply to top tier advertisers either. Brand marketers who don’t have the budgets to execute TV campaigns, or are looking for more accurate engagement stats than can be found from traditional digital display campaigns, can benefit from using AR to enhance the value of their product and establish a competitive advantage. Blippar, a well known AR provider, claims dwell times in excess of 75 seconds, which is 2.5 times the average of TV or radio ads. As brand marketers know, the longer the consumer is engaged, the better the chance of being recalled.

El Eid expounds on this, saying the element of control is key. Consumers who are actively engaged with a product in 3D advertising rather than simply being a passive consumer of 2D advertising show high intent for repeat purchases and consider themselves more informed. “When it comes to children, we see this control factor more than ever,” he says. “Everything is a potential toy for them or something to explore. That’s part of their learning experience, trying to control the environment around them.”

El Eid should know. Last year Pixelbug won the MIT Arab Startup competition for its Colorbug AR product, aimed specifically at children. The most interesting feature of the product is not the technology however. It is the change in business model. “Brands know quite well the effect of interactivity on children, but up until now the lead times and cost of developing branded apps and marketing them has been too expensive for them to consider doing it at scale. Colorbug is an open application platform that the child uses, and can interact with any enabled branded content. Even the placemat in a restaurant.”

  • Dany El Eid will be discussing unleashing your inner child with creative tech at the Dubai Lynx on March 6