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10 Cool Augmented Reality Ads

Augmented reality has been around in advertising for a while. But is it more than a marketing gimmick? We took a look at ten of our favorite ads that have done cool stuff with AR to see what it adds, why it works, and, in some cases, why it doesn’t.

What we learned is that ultimately, AR needs to follow the same guidelines of traditional advertising in order to be successful. It needs to have a low barrier to entry, be user-friendly, and have value for the consumer. People don’t want to go through a lot of hassle only to feel the “reward” wasn’t worth it. They need a compelling reason to engage, whether it’s exclusives, great content, or a unique experience they can share with friends. Not all of these are new but they bear revisiting.

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Limited edition shoes are a big deal for sneakerheads and Airwalk capitalized on that desire to own kicks only a few other people will have to create buzz and momentum. How’d they do this? With an invisible pop-up store in NYC and Venice Beach. People who wanted a pair had to use the Airwalk app to capture virtual shoes based on GPS locations. Grabbing the pic gave users a special code they could then use to grab one of the 300 pairs of shoes for sale.

Why It Works: It’s all about the exclusivity.

Why It Doesn’t Work: With only two locations and 300 pairs of sneakers, this is a campaign that was more about buzz than driving sales.

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TNT’s Falling Skies

One of the biggest stars of TNT’s Falling Skies is the special effects. In order to bring that to life while promoting the show, marketers created an augmented reality experience where people could fully immerse themselves in the Falling Skies environment by seeing, touching, and interacting. The only limitation? Their imagination.

Why It Works: It’s a unique experience that participants were sure to share with their friends.

Why It Doesn’t Work: The barrier to entry is simply too high.

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Fact: Every woman has bought nail polish at the drug store only to get home and discover once on her nails, it’s not the shade she was hoping for. Maybelline’s mobile app (that is unlocked by viewing specific print ads through your phone’s camera) lets you snap a pic of your hand and pair it with your nail color of choice.

Why It Works: It’s an easy-to-use app that serves a unique but real purpose.

Why It Doesn’t Work: The fact that users need to view specific print ads to know about the app is a barrier to entry, but one we don’t see as too difficult to overcome.

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Star Trek

Even those who don’t watch Star Trek are familiar with the “Beam Me Up, Scotty” concept. What better for fans than to be able to say those words and actually have it happen? The “Beam Me Up Star Trek Augmented Reality App” allows Trekkies across the Universe to “beam up” from the Enterprise’s transporter room and see the results on their smart phones.

Why It Works: It appeals perfectly to fans.

Why It Doesn’t Work: The app only worked for fans who were physical present at certain promotional events, severely limiting its ability to go viral.


There are a few tried and true ways to make the ouch of a boo boo disappear: keep a kid from looking at the blood, blow on the cut gently, and put on an adorable Band-Aid to make healing more fun. But the Band-Aid Magic Vision app introduces a new way that’s sure to put a smile on any kid’s face. Children pick their favorite Muppets character, scan the special Muppets bandage, and the iPhone or iPad turns into a stage where the Muppets perform to heal the hurt. Kids can move the device to make the Muppets do silly things.

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Why It Works: It’s cute, it’s fun, and it’s easy to use.

Why It Doesn’t Work: We can’t think of a single reason. (Plus, we don’t want Miss Piggy on our bad side!)

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If someone tried to sell you an invisible ad would you wonder if a bridge came with it? Turns out, invisible ads are not only a thing, but a thing with great possibility.

In the States, we know Lynx as Axe. In order to launch Anarchy for Her and Him in Australia, Lynx created an invisible installation using LCD screens that could only be seen with polarized lenses. People were given glasses that allowed them to become voyeurs and see in the “windows” of a house in Sydney. Couples making out, swimming dogs, and a monkey were just a few of the sights to behold. Perhaps the Emperor was wearing clothes after all and we just needed polarized sunglasses to see them.

Why It Works: Clever concept. Salacious images.

Why It Doesn’t Work: Again, this is more about buzz than sales. The installation was only accessible to a small number of people. Still, the fact that there was nothing to download and users only had to put on a pair of provided sunglasses makes it more accessible than some of the others listed.

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Pepsi Max

In order to promote their association with magician Dynamo, people can now scan select Pepsi Max bottles (using the Blippar app) in order to get exclusive content—the ability to perform magic tricks with Dynamo (who appears in the bottle) as well as a chance to win prizes. This allows consumers to engage with the packaging in a completely new way, while also enjoying Pepsi Max. It’s a bit of “mobile magic.”

Why It Works: Everyone loves magic.

Why It Doesn’t Work: Slightly cumbersome to go through all of the steps, but for the most part simple enough. Is the reward worth the effort? Not for us.


For many people, their idea of a personal hell is spending a Saturday inside an Ikea. Thanks to the 2013 catalog, however, it’s easier than ever to feel confident shopping from one’s couch. Just by scanning a photo, users can unlock films, interactive experiences, photo galleries, and home furnishing inspiration. You’ll still have to go to the store to get their famous meatballs though. (For now.)

Why It Works: Anything to avoid going to the Ikea store in person. Plus, tons of content that’s not available elsewhere.

Why It Doesn’t Work: No reason. If anything, we just want more.

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A bottle of Heinz ketchup is a staple in most households. In fact, the bottle is somewhat of an American icon. But now, thanks to augmented reality, consumers can turn that everyday bottle into a fully interactive recipe book. It’s a very practical use of AR, if you like to include ketchup in your recipes, that is. In addition, users are entered for a chance to win Heinz prize packs, which provides that added incentive to engage.

Why It Works: It brings classic packaging into the new millennium.

Why It Doesn’t Work: If people want ketchup recipes, can’t they just look them up on the Internet?

Gold Streetwear

Winer of the 2013 Auggie Award for Best AR Campaign, Gold Streetwear, turned their very recognizable gold sticker that’s plastered all over the world into a potential AR experience. Pointing a smart phone at special stickers, located in places that the target audience would know well, unlocked an AR 360 degree shooting game. In order to convert users to sales, anyone who played the game unlocked special discounts.

Why It Works: Stickers, shooting game, cool-factor. This perfectly appeals to their target market.

Why It Doesn’t Work: Limited reach. Other than that, we love it.

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