Duplicating functionality that has been available on Snapchat for some time now, the mobile web now has augmented reality ads. The team at Lionsgate has put together an mobile web based filter for the new Jigsaw movie which is the latest of the Saw series.
— Cinel Film @ MCM Ldn (@CinelFilm) October 6, 2017
The ad maps to the user’s face and overlays a torture device from the movie. This is an interesting development in the rapidly growing AR wave. According to Evan Fisk, VP of digital marketing at Lionsgate, “AR is having a moment. When Apple and Google jump in, everyone stands up and pays attention. And the technology is finally available through the web.”
What is most interesting about the campaign is the choice of mobile web as the distribution means. Snapchat has been offering customized filters like this but the costs are usually in the $500k range. Mobile web lowers the bar for cost/time to develop and also allows all of the traditional methods for tracking ad performance on the web.
However, there are a few drawbacks. Augmented reality ads on the mobile web lack the polish you might expect from an ARKit App or Snapchat filter. There are also technical challenges to be worked out with anchoring overlays/filters. Right now, face tracking is well researched and implemented already in libraries like tracking.js. Glyph tracking is also available but that only works in cases where you can distribute/place glyphs and would not work in an ad like this. If you want to track other objects with any level of fidelity, you need to create a custom computer vision model. That can get pricey pretty quickly. There are pre-trained models but the accuracy can leave you with bounding boxes too big to draw convincing overlays around. There are also issues on the mobile web with processing using heavy models. Nobody wants to do an ad buy with choppy performance.
We expect mobile augmented reality ads to proliferate as performance increases and users get used to the experience of having to approve camera access. As that happens, there will also be an increase in the tooling/software packages available to make creating these kinds of ads systematic. Sign up for our newsletter in the sidebar to stay up to date on the latest news in augmented reality and virtual reality.