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Esquire: Augmented reality puts the new spirit into old media

Esquire magazine uses an innovative approach to revive, make sexy again the media doomed by many – a paper magazine. Naturally, this is a specific situation, as Esquire target will not migrate completely to the Internet – not like in the case of traditional newspapers. Nevertheless they are paying effort to create some media buzz, so people will start talking again about something as familiar as a magazine. Video does explain most of the things, I also recommend checking Behind the Scenes of Augmented Esquire.  AR is basically live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are merged with (or augmented by) virtual computer-generated imagery – creating a mixed reality.  So, by showing certain image to our camera, we are gaining access to some content. Here is an example how an image from a pizza box unlocked part of a website:

How does it work here? After installing the software, assuming we have a webcam, it is enough to launch the application and place the magazine cover in front of a camera. Software should recognize the code, in this case located below Robert Downey Jr., and the fun can begin. Interactive elements are located in the whole magazine (I wonder where is the legend to that, so the user will not miss a single thing), often celebrities are used in these interactions.  Definitely funny and new for the potential client. Surely, this is a one-to-few times action. Not only because of the work preparation of such feature consume, but also if it would have become a standard part of the magazine, people would simply got used to it.

I do see some potential downsides, like how sophisticated that recognition is – will it work in case of the low-end webcams? Sign (code) is rather big, but still, who knows. If it will not work,  some users may get annoyed.  It is a step in the right direction, user has to be engaged, take part in something new and exciting. This also does harmonize with the upcoming Microsoft Natal, also a camera-movement recognition solution, where player will control video games using whole body as a controller. So, there is a future in such ideas.

Inspiration: Adverblog

Newspaper credibility – is it really worthy risking for few extra bucks? – Los Angeles Times USA

I’m not a big fan of non-direct promotional strategies. In my recognition, when you’re deciding to promote your product, you do it openly, avoiding cheap tricks – in this case usage of non-conventional marketing vehicle, i.e. placing your ads where receivers are not expecting to see them. It is a matter of treating your potential customers in a honest way. Such strategy has a great potential of backfiring, and turning back against its creators – in this case both involved parties. I have nothing against sponsored articles, but only when they’re placed in the proper section of a credible newspaper, and are also promptly marked. Los Angeles Times has lost somewhere the first condition.

NBC’s Southland TV series had been recently promoted in such way. It is an another Police oriented drama, with approximately 100% of political correctness factor, as:

Southland takes a “raw and authentic look” at Los Angeles and the lives of the LAPD officers who police it. The show’s seven episode first season[2] centers around the experiences and interactions of LAPD patrol officers and detectives, and is less a police procedural than a character-drive drama.[3][4] Among the characters are Off. Ben Sherman, a rookie cop and his openly-gay training officer, John Cooper, Off. Chickie Brown, who aspires to be the first woman on the elite SWAT Team , dedicated Detective Lydia Adams, and Detective Sammy Bryant, whose home life interferes with his working life.[5]

Classic. Los Angeles Times is recently having major financial difficulties as most of the old-media, traditional printed press, as advertising market is getting smaller and smaller. So, they’ve agreed to promote Southland by placing its ad on the front page, stylizing it as a normal article, telling the story of a heroic rookie Police officer. Maybe the knife on their throat motivated them for such move, or NBC just played it well. I do not know, and frankly I do not care. I just see a symptom, that will bring problems in the future, when media will decide to move the credibility border further. Here they’re playing secure, as MediaPost reports:

NBC says it is taking care not to deceive readers; the story is in different style than the paper’s normal content. It appears in a smaller typeface, and is also marked as an advertisement.

So, everything looks ok, right? Ordinary content can be divided from the ad, but I’d really want to see a research detailing how large fraction of readers did so. I’m not pointing in the so-called ignorance among US citizens, a point of view so popular in Europe. Stupidity, or shallowness are universal, and completely border free. There is a significant portion of people who have problems with dividing reality from i.e. television stories. So many times actors who’re playing popular characters are complying that they are not being recognized as themselves, but rather as who they’re playing. People are also i.e. copying the patterns of behavior from their favorite series. Borders between reality and affectation is melting, and while this can be a great marketing opportunity for promoting (like product placement once had been), it is tricky and dangerous for the content providers. Trust is the most precious value achieved especially by a media company. As precious it is, as easy it is to loose.

Los Angeles Times Southland case should be a firm warning, and the ultimate border.

For NBC – it didn’t backfired at all, as if people didn’t combined heroic rookie with their series, maybe they will at least remember the main character name, which will benefit for the station. If they did combined, they had just felt a bit confused, and were rather angry for a newspaper, not for NBC. But it could’ve been worse.

  • Innovative, and if properly used very beneficial for a company which uses it for a promotion.
  • Cons

  • Potential of backfiring and damages in the image of both parties involved.
  • Hurts credibility of chosen media.
  • Evaluation: 1/6 for L.A. Times, 4/6 for NBC

    More on the subject in Variety.

    Inspiration: Endgame (Polish)