The Most Exciting Virtual and Augmented Reality Activations We've Seen

AR and VR Experiential Activation


Have you ever wished you could Alter Your Reality? If your immediate reaction is a resounding “yes!” then okay, there may be a few different things going on here, but you are definitely not alone. Moreover, a growing number of companies are banking on this reaction from their target audiences. Altered Reality Marketing (including augmented reality and virtual reality) is no longer an emerging industry. It’s here. It is shocking. It is funny. It is emotional. It is super cool and leaves a long last impression on any potential buyer.


Altered Reality Marketing – nothing “Pretend” about its growth

Financial forecasters like Goldman Sachs, Bloomberg, and others predict this market will continue to explode and hit a whopping $80B by 2025. In the last five years, companies with a pioneering spirit (and large marketing budgets) have entered this new advertising platform and have been rewarded for their creativity and bravery in attempting to reach audiences in a truly awe-inspiring way. In 2018, the spend on AR hit a peak at 27B. This was up 92% over the last year’s spend by companies in 2017. However, experts predict there is limited time left to jump in before this platform becomes the norm, making it harder for brands to stand out.


AR Marketing vs VR Marketing

Augmented reality marketing (AR) is by far the most commonplace and most accessible to larger numbers of people. In short, AR uses a generated image as an overlay onto an existing image (think of your GPS navigation app and the moving dot over a static map). Virtual reality marketing (VR), on the other hand, tends to be a full immersion experience often with a single individual who may have the ability to use hand/body movements within an “altered” environment. Not surprisingly, both AR and VR are huge in the gaming industry with a record number of game apps on the rise.


AR Apps you might already be using

AR marketing has seen a significant rise in use for mobile advertising campaigns. Required devices, such as a smartphone or other tech will allow the user to see added digital elements on an existing image or a live view. How fortunate for brands that approximately 77% of Americans own a smart phone and increase that number to 92% if your market audience is between 18-29yr of age.

VR and AR Experiential Activation
Apple launched an update in 2018 to the iPhone operating system which is heaven for augmented reality enthusiasts.


Existing apps like IKEA Place, Wayfair, and Target let you move furniture around a picture of your living room. GAP lets you try on clothes from your mobile device, and companies like SEPHORA and Maybelline want you to test out makeup on your face online before you buy. However, the one company launch that truly catapulted AR technology into the public eye was the release of the 2016 Pokemon Go game and the craze than ensued for several months. The audience demand for AR experiences grew exponentially after this phenomenon.

VR and AR Experiential Activation
PokemonGo: “All you need is an internet connection.”


VR Marketing is impactful but pricey

Virtual Reality (VR) Marketing may involve more complex hardware, such as a VR headset or VR eyeglasses. A virtual reality experience is more sensory, usually involving total “immersion” by a temporary cut off from the outside world. On a larger scale, virtual reality can be an extremely expensive undertaking. Also, a VR experience tends to be very singular and inevitably means people waiting in line for their “turn” at the headset – however, the end result is an experience that leaves a long lasting, frequently exhilarating, impression.

VR and AR Experiential Activation
Virtual reality tech requires a VR headset or eyeglasses, and tends to be a “solo” experience.


VR Activation on PIER 39 in San Francisco

In 2017, Tandem partnered with a tourism brand (Travel Nevada) to launch a VR activation on PIER 39 in San Francisco. We strategized and helped our client create the type of experience they wanted to offer their audience. Users experienced a variety of dazzling scenic treks throughout Nevada viewed through the VR headgear. The feedback on this event was phenomenal, and we saw a solid uptick in social media play on the activation as well.

VR and AR Experiential Activation
Travel Nevada – Virtual Reality Activation on PIER 39 (2017)


Tell the Story

AR marketing is more than entertainment. It is a unique, memorable way to emotionally connect with your customer and allow them to reimagine your product. However, brands need to tread lightly. It is easy to get caught up in the novelty of new technology, and risk your end product resulting in a hollow and gimmicky feel. As an example of “using tech just for tech,” AMC Theatres was criticized on one of its early attempts at an AR campaign.

VR and AR Experiential Activation
AMC Theatres tries augmented reality to activate static movie posters.


Moviegoers were first tasked to download an app in order to scan an icon on a printed movie poster located in the theaters. “Once the poster is recognized by the app, consumers can either watch the film’s trailer or buy tickets.” Ultimately, in this campaign, the impression left of the audience was simply added steps to view content that was already accessible on their website.


5 Altered Reality Marketing Ads That We Love to Watch


Unlike AMC, there have been many brands who got it “right” and have really created ingenious and authentic and even legendary ads. Check out our list of five 5 eye-popping AR ads, Each shows a different take on how to use AR to market the brand or product.


  1. Pepsi MAX: Unbelievable Bus Shelter_London

One of YouTube's most viewed ad campaigns, boasting more than six million viewers. This is truly a must-see – and likely is one that you’ll be forwarding to friends later today.


  1. Coca-Cola and WWF: Arctic Home

A pioneer AR campaign (released in 2013) is a great example of perfecting the emotional connection with the branding message.


  1. Climb a Mountain with Adidas campaign

This campaign uses Mixed Reality (combination of virtual and augmented reality) to achieve a very solid mountain climbing experience for the user.


  1. Under Armour - Coming Soon Virtual Store

“So clever and simple! Why didn’t we think of it before” says Every Ad Executive every time a new idea seems obvious. In this case, this ad builds excitement for a new store launch. Just imagine the possibilities of future product launches or store openings.


  1. Dutch Lady_Flying Farm

Not every AR campaign has to have a mammoth brand name behind it.


In summary, AR campaigns are more prevalent than ever and getting better with age. Successful brands that focus on story telling will keep their messaging authentic and meaningful. As some brands have experienced, using tech “just to use tech” creates ads that strike audiences as superficial and forgettable. As more and more smart phones are launched with “AR Compatible” features, you can expect to see more tigers jumping at you, more tentacles slipping out of manhole covers right before your eyes, see a few extra mythical creatures on sidewalks, and random people just up and sprouting wings. It’s about to get really weird – as more and more consumers will be drawn into a whole new Alternate Reality.


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