Augmented Reality and the Second Screen: Two Digital Trends for Effective Storytelling in Advertising

Recently, Latitude published the first round of their research through which they sought to understand how technology early adopters wanted to experience stories in the future. What they identified centered around 4 different aspects that the participants found to be keys to effective storytelling:

  1. Immersion – Taking people deeper into the story through heightened sensory experiences
  2. Interactivity – Moving beyond passive narrative into active involvement to impact in the story
  3. Integration – Bridging the gap between the story and the real world through effective cross-platform mechanisms
  4. Impact – Creating a call to action caused by inspiration found within the story

The research and findings are geared toward storytellers in an entertainment context, but this insight can be applied to other industries. As advertisers, are we not storytellers crafting a narrative about the products and services we represent? Of course we are, and marketing campaigns need to be crafted as such. In order to truly create an effective story, brands need to develop experiences that exemplify these same principles that Latitude has identified.

How can advertisers leverage these four methods to effective storytelling? The research shows two compelling pieces of data for us to keep in mind during campaign creation. As marketers, when we hear the word “platform,” we instinctively think in terms related to mobile, email, TV or print mediums. We often overlook the tangible environment itself. Over half of the participants viewed the real world as its own “platform.” They also desire increased control over their experiences, so much so that 79% wanted their interactions to impact the storyline. Two technology trends advertisers should be focusing their attention on in regard to these 4 elements of effective storytelling are augmented reality and second screen viewing devices.

source: AdWeek

source: AdWeek

Augmented reality (AR), sometimes called mixed reality, is an effective and underutilized technology that advertisers have at their disposal. To put it simply, AR is a technology that mixes real and virtual worlds by placing digital overlays in real world environments. Use of this reality extension can provide a rich visual and audial environment that allows users to interact with an experience that is still rooted in their real world — something the research shows is important to effectively telling the story.

AR also creates a platform where users can manipulate the narrative digitally. Personal augmented reality experiences are often triggered by static image placements (signs, print ads, packaging), but can also be location-based by utilizing GPS on users’ smartphones. These methods are highly effective at providing interactive digital elements to static imagery, essentially “bringing the ad to life.” Other public augmented reality experiences like projection mapping or using large digital screens as the viewing window for multiple participants are often created specifically for the environments in which they are placed. Something to keep in mind when looking to build a digital sensory extension is that not all augmented reality experiences need to be visual. Two excellent examples of audial based experiences are the band Bluebrain’s location-aware music album and The Dark Knight Rises augmented soundtrack. Immersion can be visual and audial as well as tactile. Finding ways to engulf the story while accentuating multiple sensory levels can be highly effective.

us social tv activity q4 2011 q2 2012Advertisers should also be paying close attention to the emerging trend in television companion watching platforms, often called the Second Screen. The drastic rise in participatory television behavior (often referred to as Social TV) combined with multi-screen use has created an exploding ecosystem of platforms from third parties and networks alike. I recently covered the varying ways that brands should be looking at these platforms here on the Engauge blog in a post titled, “Navigating the Second Screen: A Review for Brands.” Broadcast ads that transcend from a passive viewing environment into an interactive one can strengthen the storytelling experience.

At present, this expanded interaction with the brand will likely occur within a secondary device the viewer is simultaneously using while watching their television programming. As the number of connected television sets around the world continues to grow, the opportunities for marketers to create immersive experiences for brands within the primary viewing window will increase. Digital delivery allows for not only immersive experiences, but also highly customizable and personalized experiences through individual interactivity.

Effective storytelling isn’t limited to those in the entertainment industry. Marketers themselves can and should look at advertising campaigns as unfolding a narrative that seeks to engage and enthrall audiences. The digital audience of the future wants storytelling to be immersive, interactive, integrated and impactful. Brands who harness the power of emerging platforms that augment real world environments and provide enhanced interactivity will create lasting and memorable experiences for their audiences. It is in these moments where the greatest impact is attained.

This originally appeared on the Engauge Blog August 31, 2012

  • kgaskins

    Hi Chad,

    Thanks so much for your insightful thinking around our Future of Storytelling findings. We completely agree that the “real world” should/will be considered another “platform” as storytelling continues to evolve. We’re also focusing on providing more insights specific to brands/marketers and non-fiction content creators in phase 2 of the study, which should be out next month. (If you’re interested, you can sign up to be notified by email when it’s available:

    - Kim (from Latitude)

    • Chad Elkins

      Thank you for dropping by and for the kind words, Kim. I’ll definitely sign up to be notified. The phase 1 report was fantastic and I’m looking forward to phase 2.