Augmented Reality: The Next Big Thing or a Springboard to Something Bigger?

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To stay on the cutting edge of social media, it is important for us to keep up with what new technologies are on the horizon and to keep an eye on the technologies which we believe might be the “next big thing” in social media. It was rumoured a few years ago that the next big thing for 2009-2010 would be Foursquare. While Foursquare has attracted a fair sized following, I would argue that Foursquare acted as a springboard to launch us into the new era of location-based marketing and applications. Similarly, there is a lot of buzz in the social media world that identifies Augmented Reality and Mobile Augmented Reality as the next big thing for social media for 2011-2012. But, I can’t help but ask myself if that will really be the case. Before determining my opinion, however, I felt that it was necessary to explore a bit more about Augmented Reality.

What is Augmented Reality?
Augmented Reality is defined as “a  type of virtual reality that combines real and imagined images in a real-time session” (PC Mag). AR has also been defined as “a term for a live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are augmented by virtual computer-generated imagery” (Coolhunting). In plain English, this means that you can now use your cell phone camera to see things that aren’t physically there, but are placed there by digital/virtual markers. This could have some very positive implications for marketers who want to reach potential customers in the areas near their stores. It could also provide a great deal of added value to people who are already using location-based applications or are looking for deals, reviews or specific venues in a city.

How does it work?
So, how does augmented reality work? Since I’m not a technically gifted person, I looked around for some dynamic, visual explenations of how Augmented Reality works from a technical perspective. The best videos I found were by Common Craft and Hitlab who explain in pretty understandable terms how the technology behind AR really works.

It seems that there are several technologies involved and that there are lots of ways augmented reality can work. For Mobile Augmented Reality, the application on your cell phone reads a digital marker and is able to provide you with a secondary visual layer of information super-imposed over the actual reality. When AR is used with books or other physical objects, the objects usually has a card that transmits the information to your web camera or phone camera.

Will it catch on?
As you will notice from the videos above, it has taken a bit longer than expected for augmented reality to catch on . . . But, catch on it has! We are beginning to see Augmented Reality in cereal box toys, children’s books, mobile apps, zombie infested streets and location-based marketing. One of the most intriguing usages of AR that I found while researching the topic was the Axe Fallen Angels campaign. You may remember this ad from the Super Bowl featuring beautiful angels who fell from heaven because of the irresistible scent of Axe’s new body spray. What does this have to do with AR? Well, Axe brought their “fallen angels” to a train station via Augmented Reality.

People in the station could stand on the card which was stationary on the station floor and trigger the Augmented Reality on a screen above. While unsuspecting travelers watched, an “angel” falls and is within reach of people, but not quite close enough to touch. While I don’t intend to go out and buy Axe, I do believe that this is a very interesting example of what is possible with Augmented Reality in the next few years.

What do you think? Is AR here to stay or is it just a springboard for bigger and better technology in the near future? Will we be using AR for everything in a few years? Please share your opinions in the comments box below!

Thanks for reading!
Rebekah Bowen

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Refreshing the Pepsi Refresh Project for 2011

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As you all may know, I love it when companies, organizations, non-profits and other groups use social media to promote social good. This week, Lauren, who is a classmate in my Advertising 490 class, posted a very interesting discussion about Coca-Cola’s “Open Happiness” campaign & The Truck of Happiness. Her post made me think of the Pepsi Refresh campaign from last year, and I couldn’t help but wonder if that marketing plan would be revisited again this year. The original reasoning behind the campaign was that the $20 million which would normally go to a Super Bowl advertisement spot would instead go to communities and organizations to sponsor campaigns for social good. This year, however, Pepsi actually created Super Bowl spots.

My question was whether these Super Bowl spots, such as the one above, would reclaim the $20 million of Pepsi’s annual promotional budget. So, I did a Google search (I seriously dislike Bing!) and found lots of news from January and earlier this month relating to the recreation of the Pepsi Refresh project for 2011. Although I didn’t know about it at the time, the first Pepsi Refresh project actually faced some serious structural problems. In the early days of the campaign, there were problems with the website where you submitted your project proposals. When a person logged in to submit their project idea, they were being given another submitter’s personal information.

The issue was soon resolved and the application process wen’t pretty smoothly from there on out. Troubles for Pepsi were not over though. After all applications were in, Pepsi opened up voting for the competition. After millions of votes were counted, Pepsi named it’s winners. Winners were super excited, but Pepsi now faced cheating allegations for their voting process because certain groups created informal alliances to get people to vote for their project.

In a renewed effort, Pepsi has “refreshed” their project by tightening security measures on their application sites, having third parties measure the reliability and fairness of their voting system, and eliminating categories of high value (the $250,000 grant) or high controversy (such as the “environmental” category) to ensure that there is a much more balanced and fair disbursal of the $20 million they plan to share with communities.

Read more here…

While some question the quality of the Pepsi Refresh project from a business standpoint , I prefer to simply focus on the fact that they are doing good. Whether or not the business model is at it’s prime or the project is sustainable, that is still $20 million that was put to good use in small communities throughout the United States. We may can argue that Coca-Cola’s Live Positively campaign may be slightly more sustainable over time; however, we can also argue that the Refresh campaign is having a more direct effect on individuals in the United State.

Coca-Cola’s new Open Happiness campaign seems to be targeting the same vibe of spreading positivity and goodwill, but they are coming at it from a different angle. Three bloggers will travel around the globe in a whirlwind tour visiting different cities and writing about how Coca-Cola helps bring happiness.  According to an AdAge article, the Open Happiness campaign narrowly misses the mark of being a great promotional campaign.

In a world where there seems to be way too much negativity in the media and everything surrounding us, I feel that we should commend these two major companies for taking the initiative to support positivity and social good. Although their methods are different, both companies promote “happiness”, “positivity” and a better world. For this, I am thankful. Their motives may be driven by ROI & ROE. Regardless of their original reasons for the campaign, I still think we should support these types of campaigns because there are at least 200 “Refreshed” communities and lots more happy Coke drinkers out there!

So, what will you let Pepsi refresh in your community?

ROE & Social Media

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While advertisers and companies alike are often struggling how to measure Return-on-investnment, our guest speaker in class this morning, @laurabower , pointed out that return-on-engagement is actually a quite reliable and measurable way for people to judge their social media influence.

In my Twitter feed this morning, I ran across this story by Casey Hibbard in the Social Media Examiner (via Michael Stelzner ). It showed great usage of social media to encourage attendance and participation at races at the Del Mar Racetrack (horses not cars) in California.

With virtually no other marketing changes, social media boosted attendance this past season by 4.2 percent.

“That’s an increase of 27,000 bodies,” said Craig Dado, senior vice president of marketing at Del Mar Racetrack. “In this economy, I’ve got to be honest, it was a little bit surprising.”

The story goes on to explain how their social media usage came about. It shows a great deal of success and ROE (Return-on-Engagement) for their social media efforts. The company has two websites, as well as a strong presence on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare & YouTube. The information and conversation on these sites is not one-way promotion, but interactive conversations and sharing with followers, friends, etc.

If you are curious about ways to measure return-on-engagement, visit Sarah Evans insightful blog and read her post on 15 Ways to Measure ROE .

Return-on-engagement will also play a part in the many conversations about Super Bowl ads. This year, several companies are opting to either involve social media in their campaign (Audi’s hashtag inclusion)  or abandoned traditional 30-second spots for more innovative campaigns (Papa John’s No-Overtime Campaign). Other companies are allowing leaking of information and/or parts of their commercials to generate buzz, as with the Vader Volkswagon ad which is a Trending Topic on Twitter today as “Volkswagon Commercial”.

As Super Bowl time nears, I am interested to watch how these new campaign strategies work and what type of ROE they receive!