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How Pepsi is elevating message delivery via augmented reality

Pepsi recently took its use of augmented reality to the next level in a campaign that surprised ? and even scared ? consumers while revealing how tight integration between message and technology is key for success.

The bus shelter effort is part of a bigger campaign for Pepsi Max called ?Unbelievable? that encourages consumers to submit videos of something unbelievable using the hashtag #LiveForNow. A video on YouTube revealing consumers' reactions to the augmented reality bus shelter has been viewed more than 4 million times.

?This is a great use of augmented reality to deliver a live experience,? said Stephen van Elst, executive creative director at Spinifex Group, Los Angeles. ?It's communicating a message - the idea of 'unbelievable.'

?In terms of brand building, augmented reality being a tool to build a brand is a more complex question, but this is definitely a good use of appropriate technology to deliver clearly on a message,? he said.

?I think when marketers consider AR as a tool to tell a story, the technology and what its potential is, as well as its limitations, need to be carefully considered. It shouldn't be used simply because it's a 'technology of the moment', it needs to elevate the delivery of the message more than any other technology can.?

Flying saucers
The soft drink marketer?s previous augmented reality efforts have been fairly straightforward, such as bringing a can of soda to life on a consumer?s smartphone screen. However, in its latest foray, the company leveraged the technology to add some thrills to commuting by making it look as though aliens were attacking a bus shelter.

The campaign for Pepsi Max ran recently in a bus shelter in London, turning one of the shelter?s walls into a fake window that appeared to show a number of different unlikely scenarios happening on the street behind, such as flying saucers descending, a robot attacking and a tiger running loose.

A camera is placed on the external face of the window, capturing what is actually happening on the street and live streaming it on the internal side. As a result, anyone inside the shelter sees flyer saucers or an attacking robot superimposed on top of what is actually happening on the street.

The brand also caught consumers? reactions, with some initially looking startled, and posted these to YouTube and Facebook.

?What people may not understand is that it seems this was set up to create, primarily, a piece of shareable content,? Mr. van Elst said. ?It operated live like a 'candid camera moment,' but it?s also all about delivering those human reactions as well as the content itself back to viewers, with more than 4 million hits this did really well.?

Brand awareness
While a growing number of marketers have been experimenting with augmented reality, in many cases these efforts have been limited to extending the brand into the digital realm in ways that are not all that exciting or creative.

There have been a lot of attempts at giving consumers a way to take a photo of someone next to a well-known character brought to live via augmented reality. Or, campaigns built around letting consumers watch some manifestation of a brand act out in a cute manner in the digital realm.

The Pepsi campaign is notable for its creative use augmented reality to change consumers? perception of what is happening around them.

When the technology and message are tightly integrated as in the example of Pepsi, it can help a brand drive awareness.

?This is a great example of how technologies like augmented reality offer a highly memorable and captivating experience,? said Annie Weinberger, general manager of Aurasma at HP Autonomy, San Francisco. ?No one who was at the bus stop that day will forget that any time soon.

?Augmented reality ? whether mobile or stationary like this example - helps brands cut through the noise to deliver a memorable experience,? she said.

Frictionless engagement
The campaign also addresses one of complaints with augmented reality by eliminating the need for users to download an app to engage with content.

With the effort gaining so much attention and such a strong reaction from consumers who participate, Pepsi could have enhanced the effort by leveraging mobile for a more direct brand engagement.

?Marxent is leaning towards creating advertising experiences that provide multiple touches and use AR to facilitate direct engagement over time,? said Beck Besecker, CEO of Marxent Labs, Kettering, OH.

?Right now, we are seeing a trend toward introducing game mechanics and serial content experiences that are unlocked over time and stand to benefit the direct relationship between a brand and a consumer more so than a chatter campaign,? he said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York