This week, Facebook announced that augmented reality ads would now be making their way into people’s News Feeds.
With both Facebook and Snap making AR ads an increasing priority, ad agencies have started cranking up their efforts to master the format and are scrambling to figure out where it fits in the digital advertising landscape.
Currently, agencies including BBDO, OMD, Wavemaker, Glow and Avatarlabs are trying everything from building dedicated AR teams, to conducting internal demos, to dedicated Slack channels focused on AR ad craft. Some are even hosting happy hours to get employees and clients better acquainted with AR concepts.
The rationale behind this pus is that AR is no longer just a shiny, new object. While S napchat has been pioneer of the medium– through which real-world images can be blended with computer-generated visuals – Facebook’s push has given AR ads a whole new stage and unprecedented scale.
“Between Snapchat and Facebook, the writing is on the wall,” said Robert Lester, associate creative director at Glow. “AR ads are at an inflection point, and now have reached a certain level of reach and distribution.”
AR has gained enough traction to make agencies change the way they approach its execution. Instead of outsourcing their production to the platforms, or production companies and other partners as they had typically done in the past, some agencies are now hiring or developing in-house experts and teams that are well-versed in AR or 3D modeling.
Los Angeles-based agency Avatarlabs, for example, is investing in building up its own 3D depatrtment. The agency wants to capitalize on the momentum, believes that AR is one of its leading offerings and thinks there is enough client demand for it to warrant a dedicated team working on AR efforts round-the-clock.
“This isn’t like programmatic advertising where a campaign manager can create an entire campaign in an hour, this is a very specialized skill,” said Jason Steinberg, vp of strategic initiatives at Avatarlabs. “There is no room for sloppy code or bad modeling, and you have to consistently deliver.”
The agency, which helped Budweiser bring its Clydesdales to life using AR this Super Bowl among other projects, also hosts regular lunch-and-learns and developer sprints focused on AR. It even has a dedicated Slack channel, where designers, developers and creatives share examples of latest work and tips and tricks, said James Safechuck, the agency’s director of innovation and technology.
Social media and digital agency Glow, on the other hand, hosts AR-focused happy hours, showcasing the latest and best-in-class examples of AR ads and prototypes it’s been working on. The events initially began as an internal effort led by its innovation wing, Glow Labs, but have evolved to become client-focused soirées in recent months, according to Lester.
“AR is tantamount to success and important for us to create a meaningful positioning for ourselves as an agency today,” he said. “The happy hours are super efficient in educating clients, but also creating shared energy and direction.”
Marketers seem to be responding. While a handful of clients — maybe 5% of them — were serious about buying AR ads a year ago, that number has jumped to 60%, said Kerry Perse, head of social media at OMD. Others agreed, with Avatarlabs saying that it has started to get 2-3 requests per day.
With more brands willing to move their ad budgets toward AR, media-buying agencies are also pushing into this realm. AR has become a focal point in discussions that both OMD and Wavemaker’s innovation teams have with their clients, with the teams working on more creative ways to execute on them in the future.
“The interest is really starting to ramp up,” said Noah Mallin, head of content, experience and sponsorship at Wavemaker. “Even on the media side, there’s opportunity for creativity in how we buy these ads.”