“AR is the new QR:” Lessons in interactive mobile

People are always looking at mobile ads, but that doesn’t mean they’re seeing them. Without the widespread ability to track eyeballs—yet—advertisers are looking to add in interactive elements to their campaigns to make sure the $80 billion plus spent on mobile advertising is actually capturing people’s attention.

We asked creative agency execs which new, interactive features they’re using to make sure consumers pay attention to mobile ads, and we found that some formats are faring better than others.

Augmented reality

Verdict: All the mobile rage.

Execs at Huge recognized AR’s advertising potential a year ago, thanks to the success of a Pokémon Go experiment. And at Ogilvy, “we are pushing our clients pretty quickly to that format,” said Mark Himmelsbach, head of digital and innovation. It’s become one of the agency’s “standard offerings.”

While AR as a core element of mobile ad creative itself hasn’t been proven yet, brands have been successful in building AR into apps. Ogilvy recently worked on an AR campaign for IBM to help launch the movie “Hidden Figures” with an app that lets users discover “hidden figures” in physical locations. Next to statues of well-known (read: white, male) historical figures, users could hold up their phones to see AR statues of minority, female movers and shakers in over 150 locations across the US.

When it comes to entertainment, Himmelsbach said AR experiences are popular among his agency peers. “We are huge fans of augmented reality. We are pushing our clients pretty quickly to that format.” He noted that AR can create enduring in-store experiences, such as letting customers compare a product in the store to that of the competition or alerting them to available discounts.

Ogilvy created a series of digital mall posters for Coke Zero, where consumers could use their phones to virtually “drink” the Coke in the poster using an on-screen straw. They could also use the Shazam app to fill empty glasses on their phone screens when the corresponding TV commercial of a pouring Coke Zero aired. Both resulted in free Coke Zero coupons.

The TV ad ended up being the “most Shazamed of all time,” and it showed that viewers were willing to take extra steps to get the experience.

“AR is like the new QR code,” he said.

Virtual reality

Verdict: Not the mobile reality.

VR, on the other hand, has proven too clunky to get the same traction on mobile. “We found that when people have to put something on their heads…it really limits participation,” said Himmelsbach.

Apple recently acknowledged this at its Worldwide Developers Conference by putting AR capabilities on its mobile devices, while relegating VR to desktop. VR proved difficult to adapt to on-the-go habits that drive mobile advertising.  Instead of trying to force that behavior on consumers, advertisers are better off trying to take the best parts of VR (allowing consumers to truly immerse themselves in content) and express that in different ways.

Interactive video

Verdict:  Turn passive viewers into active participants? Yes, please.  

Video is a proven tactic for top of funnel awareness and brand building, but when you add in interactive elements you create an immersive environment that can push consumers closer to a purchase.

Simple interactive features in mobile video ads can be all it takes to sway consumer behavior. While “most people these days reject paper coupons,” said Himmelsbach, they’ll take a coupon or other reward that is delivered to them after interacting with a mobile video.

Automotive brands can use features like zooming in on a speeding car in motion, feeling its engine rumble through haptic effects, or tapping on the ad to switch the view from the outside of the vehicle to the inside. These interactive elements can help trigger lower funnel post-video actions – scheduling a test drive, for instance.

For Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Disney released a custom trailer for their mobile campaign where viewers took part in an on-screen ‘treasure hunt’ and were rewarded with exclusive video content from the film for each “treasure” they found.

And at Essence, consumer surveys have shown that the focus on personalizing interactive mobile video ads has resulted in better brand recall, said Schmitt. These personalized experiences could be as simple as surfacing multiple products based on visits to other sites or making inferences based on context; for instance, serving a video ad for headphones in a music app.

Interactive dynamic display

Verdict: Works across the board.

At Essence, creatives focus on interactive dynamic display—ads personalized based on users and their environments—to “create shoppable moments” on mobile, said Garrick Schmitt, global director of experience design.

Carousel ads, which rotate products users can buy with a tap, “turn a unit into almost a store,” he described. Users are more likely to shop from these “stores” because they’re feeding consumers products based on their digital histories, locations and actual items that the consumer taps on the screen to select themselves.  

Though the appeal of dynamic display for retailers is clear, Schmitt said, “You don’t have to be a retailer to take advantage of it…it works great for every brand.”


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