Can augmented reality change the storytelling game in India?

In 2013, Times of India launched the ‘Alive’ app. Through the app, a reader could view a video story. With this, augmented reality, or AR, entered mainstream India. Though one sees far less of the app in the pages of TOI now, its entry did indicate the growing interest in augmented reality for storytelling.

On Women’s Day, NGO Women’s Aid came out with a brilliant billboard. Face recognition technology showed the face of a battered woman healing the more you looked at it:

Women's Aid 'Look at me' from Mike & Ben on Vimeo.

The message was clear; don’t turn away from domestic violence. Simple, powerful and very effective.

But can augmented reality turn storytelling into a powerful experience that could actually convert into action or is it destined to go the QR code way?

Can augmented reality change the storytelling game in India?

In 2012, Mahindra and Mahindra perched a virtual cheetah on top of an XUV500 for an Auto Expo – an early AR campaign in India. This makes it to Poonam Ganguly’s list of favourite AR campaigns.

The founder and director of digital firm Media Moments, says that this was one of the first augmented campaigns in India. Ganguly feels that through this, “Mahindra was able to bring out the brand message for Mahindra XUV by comparing the vehicle to a cheetah and the experience for the consumers was fun.”

Ganguly also believes that cost of running an augmented reality campaign is more reasonable today. She predicts that within 3-5 years everyone will have AR integrated into their mobile application, but points out that, “The biggest value will be when the processors of mobile phones ship out this technology. That will be something that everyone can look forward to, as customers would only need to point at the product to view the interactive images”.

Rimjhim Ray, co-founder and chief creative officer, unmarketeer agrees that, “AR brings a tectonic shift in storytelling by letting the audience participate in the story. It shifts the form of storytelling from narrative to participative. There was a fantastic campaign that Skype did on Facebook where it let users compose birthday messages for their loved ones and sing along with their favourite celebs. The possibility here is huge to make your customer the hero of your brand story and let him experience your brand first hand.”

Ray does warn that, “The AR market in India is still growing compared to the US or Europe where the field is mature and there is already talk of the initial novelty wearing off.”

Karthik Srinivasan, national lead, Social@Ogilvy India feels that, “Like any new technology, the potential and success of AR depends entirely on the context in which it is used. I believe right now it is being used as a shiny new toy, much like how QR codes were being used some years ago. The context to AR is that a user has to feel compelled to pick his/her phone up, perform the call-to-action and be wowed at the end due to the experience. But, in most cases, all he/she gets to see is a video version of what can be done even in print or given as a simple URL that users can easily enter into a mobile browser.”

What kind of AR campaigns will work in India?

Srinivasan says that, “Times Internet's Alive app is a great example of extending the scope of print news and it brings a more vibrant 2D version of news. It's almost like sitting with a TV in your hand, but all you have is your newspaper and your mobile phone!”

“For brands, what I believe will work is concepts that really make use of the scope of AR in a way that it offers an experience that cannot be replicated either in video or on a web page.”

Srinivasan gives the example of KFC saying, “I quite like what KFC and Blink agency did for their WOW menu in India. An app which scans a currency note (Indian), and what the value can buy you in KFC. It’s very practical and useful for a specific target group like students. Although the life of the app ceases after the first few uses.”

Favourite international campaigns using AR: Nat Geo and Pepsi

Ray likes, “The National Geographic dinosaur campaign where they let users play with dinosaurs, swim with dolphins and do other cool stuff. It’s exciting to see Nat Geo using AR, it shows the widespread use that this tech can have. I read about a researcher in Europe using AR to recreate historical experiences. I think creative uses such as these are stretching the boundary of what AR can do."

Srinivasan likes the Pepsi Max campaign because, “It is such a natural and seamless use of AR (doesn't need mobile phones either!) and creates a genuine sense of wonder!”

If you enjoyed this article, you can subscribe for free to our weekly event and subscriber alerts.