This post is adapted from ARtillery Intelligence’s report, AR Advertising Deep Dive, Part I: The Landscape. It includes some of its data and takeaways. More can be previewed here and subscribe for the full report.

AR continues to evolve and take shape as an industry. Prominent sectors include industrial ARsocialgaming, and shopping. But existing alongside all of them is AR advertising. This includes paid/sponsored AR lenses that let consumers visualize products on “spaces & faces.”

Advertising is one of the most lucrative AR subsectors, on pace to reach $1.41 billion this year and $8.02 billion by 2024. These figures measure the money spent on sponsored AR experiences with paid distribution on networks like Facebook and Snapchat.

As our research arm ARtillery Intelligence examined in a recent report on AR advertising, adoption drivers include brand advertisers’ growing affinity for AR. Its ability to demonstrate products in 3D resonates with their creative sensibilities, transcending common 2D formats.

To continue the narrative and “show rather than tell,” part II of that report features case studies that map to various stages of the consumer purchase funnel. What do AR ads look like today, what’s the concrete ROI, and what are strategic takeaways for campaign execution?

Figures reflect market factors at the time of creation. Always see chart date for context, and refer to newer data if applicable.

From the Top

Starting our analysis at the top of the consumer-purchase funnel, what are best practices in using AR to amplify brand messaging or product awareness on a large scale? Who are the exemplars? What are the results they’re achieving? And how are they getting those results?

Our first case study comes from Ally Bank. Built with the help of creative agency Gramercy, it launched a multi-city Monopoly-theme AR game that had a scavenger-hunt dynamic. In six U.S. cities, it placed tiles on the ground that represented the 36 squares of a Monopoly board.

Collecting squares required scanning them with a smartphone, which activated an AR animation. The animation featured Mr. Monopoly driving up in a fancy car to award points and cash prizes. These were sent within a few hours to the user’s email address (entered after winning something).

And the results? Ally achieved 100,000 plays, each of which represented a highly engaged brand impression and an email address for follow-up marketing. 86 percent of players went on to complete the game which entailed finding an additional five Monopoly pieces after the first one.

One thing that jumps out from these results is scale. AR is often mislabeled among brand advertisers as lacking scale. But 100,000 high-engagement impressions are notable. We’ve seen greater reach in outlying cases, but with less depth of brand engagement than seen here.

Success Factors

What can be attributed to these results in the spirit of identifying best practices? AR’s natural engagement played a part, as well as UX design and intuitive interactions. These are amplified by recognizable and lovable IP. This mix contains elements of Pokémon Go’s success formula.

“After only a week, there were a hundred thousand plays in these six cities,” said Gramercy’s Jeremy Patuto at ARiA. “And it wasn’t like there were brand ambassadors [saying] ‘hey come here, play this game.’ It was just naturally out there on the street and people were finding it.”

Another success factor Patuto specifies is the fact that web AR was the distribution channel for the experience. The serendipity of finding game tiles on sidewalks required an AR format that activated the experience quickly. Waiting to download an app would have spoiled the moment.

And practically speaking, web AR made it accessible across mobile platforms so that the scalability goals above could truly be reached while sidestepping compatibility issues. Lastly, web AR has benefits in being able to push updates live rather than dealing with app version updates.


As for the challenges (equally important for strategic takeaways), there were a few technical hurdles. To meet user-friendliness goals, the experience had to work over a 3G connection and limit battery drain. This required stripping down animations to a maximum polygon count.

“Polygon count couldn’t exceed 35,000 triangles which sounds like a lot but it’s really not,” said Patuto. “And then we had to make sure that the file size was under 10 megabytes. So we couldn’t do too much with shadows and we had to be very smart with how we rendered all this stuff.”

Fraud was also a challenge, as is always the case for anything location-based (just ask Niantic). There were also hiccups with the physical markers to get them to register the user’s scan and game accomplishment. But the Gramercy team was able to tackle these issues as they arose.

The lesson: have an agile team that’s ready to roll with issues on the fly. Because AR is a new marketing vehicle, the playbook is still being written. But it’s clear already that there are lots of potential advantages for brands that want to reach deeper levels of customer engagement.

We’ll pause there and circle back in the next installment with another case study. Meanwhile, check out the full report here, and get more color in the video below.

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