In March, people passing through London's Victoria railway station had the chance to interact with Lynx 'angels' through a digital video billboard. When someone walked on a Lynx marker located on the station concourse, the angels 'fell' from the sky, and interacted with whoever was standing on the marker, live on a big screen.
The campaign offered a prime example of how experiential marketing is being combined with technologies such as augmented reality (AR). Created by Bartle Bogle Hegarty London, it formed part of a wider social media push developed by the Unilever-owned brand, which included challenging people to see whether they could release an 'archangel', in the guise of model Kelly Brook, on Facebook. Meanwhile, a video compilation of the interactions at Victoria has attracted more than 900,000 views on YouTube.
Figures such as this are impressive. Moreover, technology can help experiential marketing meet the ultimate goal of getting consumers to a point of purchase.
One of the challenges for the industry hitherto has been that the more experiential the campaign, the further it tends to be from the point of purchase. The hype surrounding the use of AR, notwithstanding, campaigns such as that centred on the Lynx 'angels' demonstrate that technology is more than a fad that can deliver results by bringing the two aspects together.
In a similar vein, Mini worked with Blackjack Promotions last summer, placing video projectors inside a fibreglass Mini to digitally recreate how many people could fit into the vehicle. Consumers were invited to record themselves in front of a screen, to look as though they were squashed against the window. They were asked to give their details via a touch-screen and given the option to have the video emailed to them or upload it to Facebook.
'Via smartphones and online, brands can offer the opportunity to extend engagement beyond the event,' says Wendy Hooper, managing director at agency Carbon Marketing. 'While the consumer gets the extended experience, the marketer gets to measure the digital activity.'
While AR is no longer nascent, initially the technology was predominantly used in art installations and military applications, with varying levels of success.
Nonetheless, many of the agencies that feature in Marketing's latest experiential league tables, in which TRO has claimed the top spot, believe AR is starting to add value.
'The move of AR to mobile phones has been the real breakthrough for the technology,' says Heather Devany, creative director at agency N2O. 'We're excited about the integration between real-time information layering, on-pack and point-of-sale information, and face-to-face elements within experiential campaigns.'
There needs to be a clear reason to use technology such as AR, however, says Richard Dutton, business development director of Arc UK. He claims some recent campaigns are guilty of using technology for technology's sake, without deeper creative thought. It's a sentiment echoed by Nico Tuppen, managing director of agency Iris' experiential, PR and sponsorship arm, which has used location-based technology in campaigns for Absolut and Sony Ericsson.
'Technologies such as radio frequency-identification, AR and quick response can have a role to play in live experiences, but only if they enable the experience, make it even more memorable, or offer a genuine value exchange,' he says. 'The story must never be the technology itself. Anything too focused on how the technology works, or what it's called, will be forgotten.'
Moreover, with roughly two-thirds of Britons not owning a smartphone, brands need to be clear that using platforms such as AR can alienate their target audience.
'Asking consumers to download an application as part of an experience can be a big barrier to entry and have adverse knock-on effects,' says Ben Reed, business development director at agency Closer.
While AR is certainly on the rise, not all technologies are being equally embraced. For example, there is less enthusiasm from experiential marketers for technologies involving proximity or near-field communication via smartphones. This is mainly because not all handsets can use these technologies. Devany cites the example of N20 carrying out Bluetooth activities, but finding that most phone users' handsets were set to the default 'off' position.
However, 3D technology looks set to have an impact in the near future. According to Sally Alington, experiential agencies will soon be using 3D stands as a primary marketing tool. Services such as Klout, the influence measurement site, could also provide experiential marketers with a wealth of information, particularly as it has announced plans to integrate with FourSquare.
'It's early days, but this could give brands the opportunity to engage with the biggest influencers on the street,' says Carbon Marketing's Hooper.
In-store interactive mirrors, which can display colour, size, stock, and other information, can also offer experiential opportunities. N2O, for example, is working with a brand on how best to exploit this technology in a campaign next year.
Home-shopping applications that enable users to 'try on' clothing and see the styles on-screen, using an avatar and AR software, have yet to appeal to marketers, but N2O's Devany contends that applications such as Intel's Magic Mirror hint at the technology's potential.
For many experiential marketers, some of these applications may be seen simply as ways of attracting a crowd. If the ultimate aim, however, is to grab people's attention and hold it long enough for an interaction, then experiential combined with these technologies is having an effect that many channels may struggle to replicate.
KEY ACCOUNT WINS
- Global Brands appointed iD as the exclusive supplier for its experiential activity in February this year.
- The FA Women's Super League hired Iris in January to develop an integrated campaign featuring experiential activity.
- In November 2010, Momentum bagged the experiential marketing account for the soon-to-be-launched YouView, the joint venture between the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, Arqiva, BT and TalkTalk.
- Fru, from the makers of dessert brand Gu, appointed Chemistry Communications to its experiential account last July.
- E.ON appointed RPM last June. The agency has been briefed to manage and implement the energy supplier's experiential strategy.
CASE STUDY 20TH CENTURY FOX PROMOTES BLU-RAY TECHNOLOGY
20th Century Fox asked Event Marketing Solutions to deliver a pan-European roadshow to communicate the technology benefits of Blu-ray and promote the release of its back-catalogue of films.
The key to the campaign was to create buy-in from the public by giving them the chance to take a starring role in trailers for famous movies and share the footage through social media.
Uptake for Blu-ray technology products is relatively low across Europe, and 'live' product demonstrations were vital to raise awareness of the format and drive disc sales in the run-up to Christmas 2010. Fox needed a consumer push supported by a viral campaign that lengthened the experience for the public, and ensured data capture for further promotion of the product. The tour visited 32 sites in four countries over eight weeks. In the UK there were event days in Eastleigh, Wembley, Milton Keynes, Tamworth, Nottingham, Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle, which attracted more than 2000 visitors.
To immerse consumers in the Blu-ray experience, Fox offered people the opportunity to have their faces superimposed onto the trailers. Consumers were encouraged to take a starring role in the videos for The Sound of Music, Alien, Night at the Museum 2 and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
These were quickly edited and emailed to visitors to share on Facebook and Twitter. This created a viral campaign, thus exposing the benefits of Blu-ray to a wide audience through social media.
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