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Mobile augmented reality program showcases NBC-branded merchandise

NBC?s Today Show experimented with mobile augmented reality during the holiday season, encouraging consumers to download the GoldRun iPhone application and search for hidden objects throughout Rockefeller Plaza.

Consumers who found items using their iPhone got an offer for a special deal at the NBC Experience store, which is right by Rockefeller Plaza.

?Augmented reality is sort of a buzz word right now,? said Shailesh Rao, vice president of business development at GoldRun, New York. ?But from our perspective it is actually a way for brands to enter the mobile space, because it is visual.

?It is a way to hybridize content,? he said. ?With augmented reality you are inviting your fans into an experience and bringing people into a story your brand is telling.

?The Today Show saw the potential and wanted to do something to understand augmented reality better and how it can be used.?

Augmented reality
ABI Research found that augmented reality technology is poised to grow from generating $6 million in revenue in 2008 to $350 million in 2014.

ABI credits advanced smartphone capabilities such as video cameras, GPS data and compasses as key to unlocking the power of augmented-reality advertising.

Although the technology has potential, Forrester Research said mobile augmented reality is not yet fully baked.

The research firm said marketers and product strategists should be cautious when integrating augmented reality into their mobile strategy in 2011.

The reality is that today big brands with large budgets are trying it out with the hopes of getting the ?wow? effect.

Augmented reality requires object recognition and computerization on the mobile device as well as 3D rendering to superimpose images on the real world.

?I know a lot of people are looking at augmented reality as a one-off experiment,? Mr. Rao said. ?But it is actually such a natural extension of brand messaging.

?Capturing objects, taking a picture of a spokesman, character from a film or a product, and sharing it is letting people get into the brand story,? he said. 

?Brands can use augmented reality to extend their existing media plans.?

Today Show
Starting Dec. 20, consumers could search Rockefeller Plaza for objects that make a true New York holiday.

Those who collect any of the items could unlock a special offer.

Additionally consumers could snap a picture and share items with their friends on Facebook. This was a cool component, since some of the objects were branded products that NBC sells at its Experience store, so consumers were sharing merchandise when posting their pictures on Facebook.

?The thing that is most unique is the visual aspect of featuring products within the augmented reality experience,? Mr. Rao said. ?Brands are able to bring a personalized message to consumers and even integrate selling products.

?It is almost like virtual commerce,? he said. 

Final take
Here is a demo of the GoldRun app