Getting Real About Augmented Reality

It’s been a long time since I’ve sat through a presentation where one of our creatives didn’t eagerly show an augmented reality extension of their idea. And my response is typically the same; sheer joy over the promise of doing something technologically immersive followed by confusion and mild depression over the prospect of consumers holding a piece of cardboard in front of their computer so that… Oooh, a two-dimensional character can become three-dimensional. It always reminds me of that scene in Big where Tom Hanks is looking at one of the toy prototypes and says, “So, it’s a robot that turns into a building— what’s so fun about that?”

In my mind, the reality of augmented reality in 2010 is that it’s a technology with very few compelling applications.

However, a company called Total Immersion is making some pretty big strides to change this. I witnessed a presentation from them a couple weeks ago, the most interesting part of which highlighted an innovative face tracking technology. In short, the camera in the subject’s computer locks onto their eye line, allowing the advertiser to then place a mask of sorts over their image that will turn and rotate perfectly with the motions of their head.

This first demonstration of this technology was for an eyeglass company called Atol. Thanks to the face tracking capability, you can virtually model multiple pairs of glasses and basically look at yourself in a mirror from both head-on and profile perspectives without ever leaving your home.

Another fun application was for the Iron Man 2 film, where kids could essentially robotize themselves.

Hopefully, before long, the rest of augmented reality technology will improve to the point where it’s more integral to most marketing campaigns and less of a bell/whistle.

Until then, I’ll be waiting for the Pirates Of The Caribbean marketing team to use this face tracking technology to show me what I’d look like with an eye patch.

Marketing To Half Naked People

I’ve been in a lot of department store dressing rooms in my life. I’ve crawled under the doors. I’ve stuck the pins that were supposed to be put in the pin cushion into my finger. I’ve tried on underwear and subsequently decided to put it back in the package because it didn’t fit right. Hey, this blog is supposed to be about truth, right?

During those literally hundreds of visits though, I can safely say I never saw anything that differentiated one dressing room from another. Until last week, when I noticed these ingenious little plaques behind the clothes hooks in the T.J. Maxx dressing room.

Possibly / Definitely

Are they going to change marketing forever? No. But in an age where retailers are placing more emphasis than ever on in-store experiences and staff are trained to respond to every tweet, what a nice little touch to demonstrate that the folks at T.J. Maxx are trying to help their shoppers.

Hook, Line and Wiener

This is the giant fisherman outside Brown Brothers Wharf in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. It was built roughly around the time I was born and for decades, it has served as a beacon for surf and turf-seeking tourists.

When viewed head-on, the fisherman is rugged, powerful, knowing. A colossal embodiment of the Maine spirit.

Giant Fisherman - front view

From profile, however, he sends a different message.

Giant Fisherman - profile view

One of a large man with a small tallywacker. (Proportionally, I’m saying. It’s actually about two-feet long.)

I’m not exactly sure how this is to marketing in 2010, but let’s just say it’s a healthy reminder to look at your concept from every angle before letting it go out the door. That last check may save you from getting caught with your fly down.

A Tiny, Giant Idea

See those little balls of excess donut batter below. Those are called, “Dunkin’ Munchkins.” If you grew up in the Northeast, this knowledge is as common as where the Old North Church is located and what position Carlton Fisk played for the Red Sox. And it can all be traced back to one guy — a fellow named Steve Cosmopulos. In addition to being somewhat notorious for his temperamental nature and absurd work hours (4 a.m. to 4 p.m.), Steve, the second “C” in Hill, Holiday, Connors, Cosmopulos, was revered as New England’s first true creative powerhouse.

Dunkin MunchkinsA couple weeks ago, I judged the 50th Anniversary of Boston’s Hatch Awards with him. At which point, I learned that I disagree with, well, pretty much all of Steve’s political viewpoints, but have tremendous respect for the dogged determination with which he built a number of brands, including Dunkin’ Donuts.

As Steve recalls, the way that Dunkin’ Munchkins came to be, was that in 1970, the agency was given the assignment of coming up with a new product. The only stipulation, they couldn’t use new materials or new machinery. Which kind of limits what you can do when all you’ve got left is batter and frosting. Steve noticed that there were a couple stores were selling donut holes made from the excess batter and immediately latched onto the idea. Within a matter of weeks, he and his team created and tested two commercials, one for Dunkin Donut Holes and the other for Dunkin’ Munchkins, in Harrisburg, PA and Portland, ME. The results were overwhelming: These little dough balls were not “holes,” they were “Munchkins.”

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