I am returning this week to the one subject that all ad agencies constantly ask me about.

I run a series of mobile roadshows/master classes on behalf of The Telegraph here in London, and I can almost guarantee that, at the end of any session, one topic rises to the top of the list of questions from the audience: augmented reality.

Augmented reality (AR) is slowly but surely “augmenting” from being just an added-value tool for advertisers and consumers to one that also allows for commercial benefits for publishers and brands.

AR is now emerging as a significant tool for generating excitement around brands. This year, I believe we will see publishers use AR as a new revenue stream.

AR can, for example, allow newspaper readers to hold their smartphones over a printed page and see extra content on their handset. It places computer-generated imagery (CGI) onto real life.

This extra content could be a video version of the static ad in the newspaper, a photo gallery, a link to buy a product, or maybe a game. See the recent Virgin Atlantic example from earlier this month.

But while this might make reading a newspaper more exciting, or immerse people into specific content more deeply, it’s surprising how many in the news media industry have not yet used AR technology as a commercial tool.

Now that we have had a significant number of reader engagements and they are familiar with AR, it’s time to take the technology beyond just  “added value” for readers and start monetising the space.

This can be through advertising (an add-on to a print or multi-media campaign with us) or a click-through to a purchase (which has implications for our own editorial content, as well as an advertisers’).

With the former, for instance, we could encourage readers to buy an item featured in, say, one of our weekend magazines. The list is almost endless when you think about it.

A further way to monetise AR content is via brand sponsorship, i.e. enable readers to watch, view, or read an area of additional content when they scan the page via the AR app — content that could be sponsored by a relevant advertiser.

It is an easy technology to use and embrace and can be custom-made to an individual ad campaign or newspaper issue, by clicking through to an m-commerce site, a betting shop, a sample ordering option.

Again, the list is extensive, but only if we want to see the opportunity.

It’s there. Grasp it!

The main objective of many publishers so far has been to explore the capabilities/possibilities attached to AR and their advertisers.

How the commercial potential of this area accelerates will depend on the demand for AR-enabled print ads from advertisers and readers. And that will depend on results/return on investment.

What we are seeing are some very high engagement levels from initial trials. It’s worth investigating for your company, I can assure you.

Using AR across entire issues of newspapers and magazines will be a possible trend this year, too.  But … the content that media companies and their advertisers create must be good enough to interest readers. Not rocket science, but it needs to be considered.

The “gimmick” of AR in itself will not be enough. We are all still experimenting with AR. But with any new medium, it is vital we create content that is going to work!

We can also learn from the magazine industry, in which fashion titles particularly like the technology because of its visual nature; titles such as US Brides and Vanity Fair in the United States already have published cover-to-cover AR editions.

Imagine adding AR to the huge amount of content we generate each day: our own magazine content, galleries, or video of editorial stories, solutions to crosswords or puzzles, “hot spots” to social media for readers to comment on, features, etc.

And don’t forget: This technology is very measurable, too.

For each AR campaign, we can see how many interactions there have been, how many readers make a repeat visit, and which links people have clicked through to.

And, of course, there is also the opportunity to collect data such as requested e-mail addresses, home information, purchase choices, etc., be it for the news media company or the advertiser.

In summary, there is a potentially big opportunity both for publishers and advertisers alike with AR. As long as there is:

  • A clear call to a specific action.

  • The additional content creates desire for the reader to interact.

It’s a great engagement tool that’s impactful, measurable, and a true little slice of magic! Just think about the overall experience. Make it both engaging and useful and you’ll reap the rewards.