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How AR & VR Are Transforming Digital Advertising by Creating Marketing Experiences


For years, pop-up ads and pre-roll videos have been the kind of nuisance that internet users have simply had to put up with. The vast majority of people report finding these traditional forms of digital advertising to be intrusive and unpleasant.

Millennials, one of the demographic groups advertisers want to reach most, are particularly displeased with such tactics; 74% of 16-to-39-year olds claim they even stop using social networks if they get the sense they’re just platforms for brands to target them. And for the 5 million businesses running Facebook ads, this can be extremely detrimental.

Our collective distaste for these marketing techniques has contributed substantially to the popularity of ad blockers, with the amount of people using them rising each year. Luckily, you may not have to put up with these ads for much longer. Thanks to augmented reality and virtual reality tech, the age of the pop-up and pre-roll ad may soon be coming to an end.

The Shift

Millennials and Generation Z internet users are especially unhappy with advertising that involves a brand talking down to them. These “digital natives” have been exposed to a wide range of media channels throughout their lives. They don’t like when brands impose on their digital experiences.

Instead, they’re much more likely to value authenticity. Young internet users want to feel as though they have a voice. Ads that speak directly at them, instead of with them or for them, don’t resonate. Unfortunately for marketers who refuse to abandon old strategies, that’s exactly how pop-up and pre-roll ads feel.

Marketers who are willing to adapt have found ways to reach these potential customers without making the wrong impression. Experiential marketing, which encourages an audience to directly participate in a branded experience, is one of the most effective.

An example of this is Refinery29’s “29Rooms” event. During the experience, no one is explicitly selling any products. Participants simply enjoy a fun evening with friends. They also engage directly with Refinery29’s brand.

Along with giving customers something to actually do, instead of something to buy, the experience also benefits from the “shareability” factor. People attending these types of events are likely to share the experience on social media, further boosting brand awareness.

How VR & AR Fit In

Virtual and augmented reality tech will make experiential marketing much more commonplace in the near future. Up until recently, the limitations of mobile devices and iOS mobile app development had imposed certain restrictions on the kinds of experiences marketers could offer customers.

AR has expanded the possibilities. For instance, IKEA released an app that allows users to superimpose virtual images of furniture and fixtures onto their surroundings. This obviously makes it easier for customers to decide if they want to order an item online. However, it also allows users to engage with IKEA’s brand in an active, experiential manner.

Furniture retailers aren’t the only ones using AR and VR to offer branded experiences. Marketers have promoted TV shows like The Walking Dead with AR-based game apps that expose users to the brand in a way that’s genuinely fun and exciting.

This is the kind of advertising that younger people respond to, and it’s the kind of advertising that AR and VR tech facilitates. As these technologies continue to improve at a rapid pace, marketers should begin exploring how they can use them to their advantage. This includes planning for new and improved devices. Wearable headsets will soon offer even more immersive experiences; marketers can harness their potential to design ads that customers actually want to see.

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