Augmented Reality is No Match for YouTubed Reality

Is reality more fun when it’s augmented or YouTubed? The latest marketing stunt from Pepsi Max UK makes it clear it’s the latter. The marketer overhauled a London bus shelter to make it seem like UFOs, robots, and tigers were invading the street in this made-for-YouTube campaign that stopped traffic for a few hours.

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Marketers shouldn’t look at this as a brand using augmented reality. Instead, marketers should see this as an out-of-home stunt that is designed to spread on YouTube. The use of augmented reality is as relevant as the use of tigers and robots. All that mattered was that the brand created a novel form of entertainment. Pepsi Max UK already has two other videos with more than 5 million views, and this one is joining the club. What they all have in common isn’t technological wizardry; it’s that they’re events manufactured for YouTube. They’re reminiscent of the stunt from TV channel TNT in Belgium where a quiet town square turned into an action movie; few people saw it live, but the video has nearly 50 million views.

When can AR work? The most successful forms of augmented reality are the ones that blend into the background. My personal favorite use of it is the superimposed first down marker in televised football games, as no one looks at that and says it’s augmented reality, but few TV viewers would be able to follow a game without it. The vast majority of campaigns that urge users to download augmented reality apps fail miserably, as the value proposition for the consumer is rarely apparent. The best way to use augmented reality in campaigns is to appreciate what it can do and then make sure it’s entirely invisible to consumers.

 

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