Augmented reality exciting for publishers and advertisers

15 Oct 2012  |  Abba Newbery 

Abba Newbery, director of advertising strategy at News International, ponders whether 2013 will eventually be the year of mobile as publishers provide more and more augmented reality capability to tap into the growing number of consumers accessing content via smartphones and tablets.

Every year (for at least the few I can remember) seems to have been heralded the year of mobile.

But now finally, The Times Business section (9th October) is confirming that 2013 might actually be THE year. IAB/PwC figures have estimated a £181 million advertising investment in mobile in the first six months of this year alone.

As a result we've been experimenting with lots of new mobile advertising propositions recently. Most notably with our recent T2 London Fashion Week augmented reality special aimed to get readers interacting in new ways and testing new revenue streams.

Editorial augmented reality content gave readers exclusive catwalk video footage, the ability to buy products off the page and the chance to take part in polls using their mobile device. The display ads launched video content from brands about the advertised product.

It seems that augmented reality is genuinely something worth getting excited about. Aurasma's latest stats revealed four million downloads of its app within the first year and sign up of about 6000 partners in various sectors.

The possibilities are huge for an advertiser, from geotagging, to interactivity from a previously static medium, discounts or loyalty bonuses and more precise targeting of audiences. For a publisher it starts to help us expand our commercial proposition into trackable sales and increased product and advertising exposure.

But it's not just about a specific technology, we are excited about ways to use technology advancements in the most efficient and effective way. Last week we saw Mercedes Benz use press ads to promote a TV ad that involved Twitter interaction.

So...what does all this mean? Is it about gimmicks to be the first, or the best? Is it to demonstrate alignment with technological advances much like car makers might sponsor F1 even though they don't make the cars that race? Or is it really because in an advertising 'arms race' everyone is interested in more than simply text and images? It seems we have finally reached the tipping point. These new integrated platform approaches are starting to have the ability to engage audiences successfully.

Although we are still in the early days of consumer understanding, our recent fashion supplement delivered just over 2,500 Aurasma interactions within the edition that day. The most popular ad was Gap with just over 500 interactions and the most popular editorial was the 'Scan-to-shop' feature with just over 700 interactions. Reader user experience was smooth across iPhone and Android devices. It's still small but it's growing.

Augmented reality 'specials' for magazine type content feels like the most appropriate route as we can create more content for consumers to interact with in one place and also co-ordinate advertiser activity better. We are already planning an augmented special for the next Fashion Week (February - March 2013). 'Scan-to-shop' is now being featured in T2 on a weekly basis. The Times Saturday Magazine and its Christmas gift guide will also be augmented. We are working on new ways of packaging augmented reality with our tablet proposition.

We are committed to helping advertisers earn the attention of the audiences they want to's a heady cocktail of technical advancements, a need for clients to earn attention, a desire to try the new and discover the most effective ways of not just raising awareness but driving measurable responses.

We are excited.

Friday, 19 October 2012, 14:40 GMT

Augmented reality is great when it actually augments reality. Most of the uses in T2 were simply portals to a digital asset however and opportunities for genuine two-way (reciprocal) interaction were actually limited.

Is this another case of misappropriated technology, requiring significant consumer buy-in (download, sync and ultimately retention of an app) being used where more appropriate direct interactions would have made more sense from both an engagement and commercial perspective?


Graham Halling
Digital Business Director
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