Augmented Reality Comes to Humble Sunday Circular

Media Morph: Best Buy's 3-D Ad

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Best Buy 3-D ad
WHAT IT WAS: Everyone's heard the hype about augmented reality -- a technology where a user holds a coded piece of paper up to a webcam to generate a 3-D image on a computer screen. It's cool, but the jury's still out on whether it's a fad or a real marketing opportunity. Last week BestBuy embedded an augmented-reality code in its Sunday circular ad. When users held the front page of the circular up to their webcams, it triggered a 3-D image of a Toshiba notebook, which they could explore from various angles.

THE NUMBERS: The weekly insert was sent to BestBuy's normal circulation of 43 million, and, on Sunday, about 6,500 tried out the augmented reality bit -- more than double the company's expectations. In fact, 78% of the people that actually went to the site wanting to see the image had a webcam. To be sure, that's not a huge number -- and should temper the expectations of smaller marketers, with less distribution, who decide to dabble in AR.

About 12% of those who tried out the AR ad ended up clicking through to other pages: the Twelpforce page, the Next Class computing page or the site for the Toshiba computer itself. In the future, said Spencer Knisely, director-brand identity, print and design at Best Buy, the retailer should be able to find out who actually made a purchase after being spurred on by AR, using cookies.

Best Buy is also studying the "secondary bounce" -- will it attract additional traffic throughout the week as people who tried it out forward it?

THE FUTURE: "We have the opportunity now, having proven that it did work, to go to our manufacturer partners and asking if they have an interest in expanding the kind of messaging you can deliver," said Mr. Knisely. "Ultimately the front cover is a fixed amount of real estate. ... But if you get yourself to the cover, this can be a portal to lots of other messaging."

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