- CBS Interactive has teamed with the developer Unity Technologies to help advertisers create and scale augmented reality (AR) ads and branded content across a suite of mobile apps that includes CBS Sports, CBS News, Gamespot and CNet, according to details shared with Mobile Marketer.
- Unity claims its 3D development technology sits at the core of 75% of all AR and virtual reality content today, including through programs like Niantic's hit "Pokémon Go," Facebook Spaces and Tilt Brush, per a spokesperson. CBS sees an opportunity to support more interactive branded content and forward-thinking ad experiences, as AR is forecast to be available on more than 3.4 billion mobile devices by next year, according to a press release.
- No brand partners were named at launch for the partnership. Unity has seen mobile AR ads produce higher consumer engagement, positive brand associations and direct response actions from users, Julie Shumaker, VP of advertising solutions, said in a statement.
A major publisher like CBS searching out a scalable AR ad platform is another sign that the interactive mobile format — relatively obscure prior to the introduction of "Pokémon Go" three years ago — has broken out of its niche to become in-demand for a broad swath of marketers. Indeed, there seems to be a glut of AR-ready campaigns and solutions that seek to bridge the smartphone camera experience with the real world this year, many of which are offered through popular social media apps like Snapchat and Instagram.
With the new partnership, CBS Interactive is betting that consumers will be willing to engage in similar experiences as they browse through news and other content across mobile properties like CBS Sports and CBS News, and that brands will be eager to shell out to build those experiences.
"Through the introduction of new ad formats like AR, we are continuing to create meaningful moments for CBS advertisers to connect with audiences in innovative ways," David Lawenda, EVP of digital sales and sales strategy at the CBS Corporation, said in a statement.
Other media companies have tried to crack the AR advertising code. The Verizon-owned group formerly known as Oath developed an AR ad unit two years ago with the help of the telecom's RYOT team. The offering was piloted by brands like Home Depot, Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma at launch. However, Oath's ad business, focused on digital and the smartphone screen, broadly struggled to take off. Verizon rebranded the division, which merged internet properties like AOL and Yahoo, to Verizon Media following the announcement of a $4.6 billion writedown late last year.
Smaller players have also tried to capitalize on marketers' growing interest in the AR space. OmniVirt, a firm that specializes in immersive advertising, released a dynamic 3D Photos ad format in April that is similar in appearance to AR, but cheaper to develop. The company worked with Paramount Pictures on one of the first campaigns using the technology.
CBS Interactive could strengthen its pitch to brands by leveraging well-credentialed Unity to solve some of the technical hurdles and heavy investments associated with designing full-fledged AR experiences. Unity released a survey of ad agencies around the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity earlier this month that found 39% of respondents who worked on AR campaigns cited cost as a significant problem.
Despite their concerns, 78% of those surveyed felt positive about AR's applications in marketing, and more than half reported they were likely to consider developing AR campaigns in the next year.