Augmented reality: new dawn for print?
Not that print ever went away. It’s stuck in there like a marathon runner. Or a persistent cough. The worldwide web might be a click away, but sometimes, a glossy mag wins out. Print might not always be your go-to, there may be jazzier platforms out there, but you’d be sad should it ever disappear. Sort of the Werther’s Originals of media.
The thing is, while online, outdoor and TV have continued to benefit from advancements in technology, newspapers and magazines haven’t really seen any big changes in the last decade that keep print an attractive prospect for advertisers. Of course publishing houses have evolved by integrating additional media channels into their print offering. Most magazines and newspapers have websites. A hell of a lot of those websites host videos. Those videos might also sit on an app or e-magazine. All decent ways to ensure editorial content is picked up by ‘digital natives’, and actively consumed. What publishers haven’t benefited from is a shiny new toy that fits in with the print model better than any other media form, which brands can snatch up and play with.
Until now. ‘Markerless augmented reality’ (MAR) has been crying out for attention all year, with the likes of De Beers ‘Forevermark Fitting’ and Converse Sampler (above) making use of web-based image recognition to offer up a virtual shopper experience (no more ugly AR icons). But projects like these are still in the minority, namely due to the time and cost of bespoke builds. However, with the advent of AR print apps like Blippar and Cimagine, there’s increasing scope for brands to offer up useful content at relatively low cost.
How does it work?
Simply put, an MAR app scans distinctive aspects of an image – edges, textures, colours – and creates a highly accurate, interactive, holographic replica, opening up all manner of possibilities for extra content. Want to work out what to make with the one egg, half a lemon and questionable yoghurt pot sitting in your fridge? Brands like Heinz are already using MAR to embed recipe suggestions within their labelling. Hankering to test-drive that new Xbox game? Shortlist’s special MAR issue allowed advertisers and editorial team alike to connect multi-media content to the print magazine, which readers could interact with. Incidentally, tracking suggests readers were still engaging with content six days after publication – not bad for a free weekly mag.
Not only does this mean publishers have a new weapon in their armory to reinvigorate editorial, MAR could provide reliable metrics with which agencies and advertisers gauge the success of hitherto unmeasurable branded content. So, potential for increased readership, more interest from advertisers, good stuff.
Why does print have the edge?
The technology isn’t confined to print – in fact it works equally well on digital platforms, so why might newspapers and magazines benefit more than other media types? Well, one of the most useful/magical aspects of an MAR app is its ability to project a scanned image through your mobile’s camera lens, so it can be ‘placed’ somewhere on your person, or in your surroundings. It’s an opportunity for brands to tap in to the consumer ‘try before you buy’ mentality, which is most effective either at the point of purchase (so in-store) or in the comfort of your own home.
For this reason, outdoor media probably isn’t going to cut it. Wonder if that leather sofa would fit in your living room? Surely you need to be in your house to make that call. Ikea certainly thought so when it introduced its successful MAR catalogue. Want to see if a pair of heels sets off your LBD to perfection? You can’t exactly dance in front of the bedroom mirror to check when you’re out and about. Similarly, the tech currently works best when scanning a static image, so neither TV or animated online ads lend themselves as easily to MAR content as print.
While in the current state of play consumers are increasingly disregarding print and opting to use websites as a free source of content, MAR has the capacity to tie together the physical experience of reading a magazine or newspaper, with consumers’ desire to find quality content online. There’s real scope for publishers to increase the value of their titles for both advertisers and readers and if done right, it might just mark a turning point for the paper-and-ink way of things.