Augmented Reality is similar to Virtual Reality except it seeks to enhance your perception of the real world and is not a fantasy place. No one really knows if it will live up to its expectations, or exactly what the full potential of having it in our everyday lives will be, but one thing that is for sure is that it is a “marketers’ dream”. The opportunities are endless; you can leave messages for friends, shops can display offers and you can voice your opinion on certain places.
Advantage: The New Sphere
As a result of creating Augmented Reality a new sphere has formed known as ‘The Virtual Sphere’. This has produced a new platform for media to work with including in the Public Relations field. New campaigns are beginning to include Augmented Reality as part of their communications strategies. A recent campaign which has incorporated this is The Gorillaz for their new album, “Plastic Beach”. They have promoted it in the latest edition of NME Magazine which comes complete with an A5 booklet filled with Gorillaz information and inside is an Augmented Reality marker, which when held up to a webcam the user is presented with a 3D “Plastic Beach” which may be navigated around.
It could be argued that interactivity of this nature works well in PR campaigns and Augmented Reality is the next generation of interactivity with your consumers. According to Howard Rheingold, a critic & writer in the communications industry, interactivity can create a false sense of power which consumers strive for and this makes it worthwhile to incorporate it in PR strategies.
Advantage: Personal Experience
Once mixed with your social media applications, it can become a personal experience with offers/coupons from shops you like and places you enjoy going to – hence a marketers’ dream. This could prove to be highly useful to PROs when trying to reach their target market as the displays are only perceived by a single user, raising the possibility of creating rich, personal experiences for all occupants of a shared space. Today, people are searching, buying, rating, interacting, and using social media in a pressure-free environment. This can give PROs new opportunities as this usage is creating a large amount of raw, yet accurate data about consumer preference and by digesting this information you can sift through to the people who are interested in your product or service. An example of promoting in a more personal way is on 43things.com which is a community that allows people to interact about the life goals they have. A popular aim is to join a gym, so naturally when you’re up on this page advertisements for gyms appear. Although this is not an example of Augmented Reality creating that personal experience it illustrates how it could work in the future.
Nevertheless, all of this causes great concern for the privacy of its users and realistically Augmented Reality cannot come without its drawbacks. Here in the UK we are anything but anonymous and some people are unaware of how much of their personal information is accessible to complete strangers. Although it is not an issue for us in the UK at the moment because very few have began to use this service, it is a big thing in Japan. However, they have little problems with privacy as people remain very anonymous in Japan even though they have all the social media platforms that we do (if not more), the most you could get hold of is their email address. We seem to not have anything holding us back to uploading everything about ourselves; where we live, who we hang around with, and even what we’re doing at the weekend. They do not even have pictures of themselves up on their profiles in comparison to our 500 photos!
However, there are some measures to try and help us preserve our privacy. There have been some experiments with what is known as a ‘badge’ that people can wear to “passively manage dynamic privacy” in environments where potentially sensitive information is streamed across real and virtual worlds. Such a device might be embedded in your mobile phone in the near future. The main problem with privacy for PROs is that there are no clear boundaries when it comes to accessing consumer’s personal information. The Data Protection Act (1998) is the only law that it supposed to protect our privacy yet this is vague and open to interpretation. When it was passed 13 years ago the internet had not become such a phenomenon.
Disadvantage: Will it ever take off?
It is all very well and good if PROs start to include this media platform in their campaign tactics however it is not definite that it will take off in the UK like it has in Japan. It is important to remember that part of Japanese culture is to be tech savvy and it is not part of ours. But, maybe we are just being naive if we believe this will never take off and no one will ever use it here in the UK. It was only 20 years ago people would have laughed in your face if you said most households will have on average 3 computers/laptops by 2010. We can already see augmented reality being used by companies for promotional purposes. Ford has just launched an “augmented reality outdoor campaign to put its new C-Max model in the palm of consumers’ hands”. It will project a virtual image of the car and allow passersby to have a go. It is claimed that it is the first outdoor campaign to use augmented reality in the UK – and it undoubtedly won’t be the last.
Only time will tell if Augmented Reality will be a major component in every PR campaign but it is vital that we take everything into consideration before using it frivolously. Although it may work well in some places the UK may not be one of those and the advantages may not outweigh the disadvantages.