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19 July 2016

Why augmented reality can right the wrongs of bad ads

Written by: Symon Madry, Account Director at Edelman

Entertainment, Media, Technology

The release of Pokemon Go has been huge. Users are overjoyed with the reinvention of a much loved franchise; and schadenfreude is rife amongst non-users and media with stories of explorers’ mishaps and missteps. We can be almost certain that tech providers who have been quiet – or unsuccessful – with their own augmented reality projects will now have confidence to bring new ideas to the world following this global proof-of-concept.

Whether we love or love to hate the game or platform, monetisation of augmented reality is now on the agenda. Niantic, the developers behind Pokemon Go, has already revealed sponsored locations are part of its strategy, and so there’s an opportunity for brands. However, companies will need to think creatively and act with insight to make the most out of the platform. There are already notable examples, particularly amongst small businesses, with a favourite being a New York pizzeria owner who spent just $10 to lure Pokemon, and in turn hungry players, to his store.

Stories such as this show the benefit for businesses who trade based on location or travel/ movement. However, with first-movers taking the most obvious opportunities, the Meowth is already out of the bag. The risk is that advertisers and communicators will transplant or retrofit approaches or mediums from other platforms just to get in on the action.

Of course, one hopes the creators won’t plant a billboard in front of a wild Charmander but some will have such limited thinking. The risk with this is that AR goes the way of the desktop and/ or mobile internet where advertising became a nuisance simply blocked by users. The most successful brands will enhance the experience for users or demonstrate value, or simply do something creative and new within the parameters of this world.

We could easily predict that a footwear brand might create an item allowing for a greater radius in which you can catch Pokemon: either a clothing brand with limited edition avatar apparel or an eyewear company that grants the ability to see more around you. Or perhaps even a ride-sharing company whose drivers appear in-game, giving rides so players can cover more ground – and perhaps also in exchange for a special level-up bonus for using the service. This doesn’t even take into account what will no doubt be countless bricks-and-mortar locations who serendipitously found themselves to be a PokeStop, inviting players in to buy their real-world wares.

Brands have the opportunity to engage users not just in a whole new way, but a whole new world, from the ground-up; and the hindsight of this one.

Image: Wachiwit /

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