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Indian brands look to ride the Augmented Reality wave

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MUMBAI: Gone are the days when brands would be happy putting a campaign on TV or printing an ad in newspapers to grab their target audience’s attention. At a time when consumers are looking for greater engagement and connect with brands, Augmented Reality, which provides just that, is slowly making inroads in India.

In today’s typical life of massive information overload, Augmented Reality breaks the monotony and intelligently places the brand in the perspective of real world surroundings creating a solid Human-Brand-Interface.

Buoyed by the new model of advertising, Wowsome founder Vishal Reddy and co-founder Karan Bhangay, use mobile Augmented Reality to help brands engage with their consumers by offering real time, enticing and interactive visual content on their mobile devices. Instead of interrupting the consumers, Augmented Reality provides relevant situation based content that urges the consumer to share it with their friends and family.

Wowsome was born when Reddy and Bhangay witnessed a sea change in advertising with the digital wave in India. “Coming from a print background, we saw that social media was taking over all the print revenues for most of the publications. We thought we should add more life to the dead content that was there in print. We wanted to add more layers of digital content. That’s how Vishal came up with the idea through, which content could be more creative,” informs Bhangay.

While the industry was undergoing a digital revolution, it was unstructured and disconnected. “Publications were struggling with stagnation in print readership and digital was trying to connect both. And Wowsome broke that disconnect and connected both the mediums,” says Reddy.

Wowsome, which started a year back, currently boasts of over 50 clients including brands like L’oreal Paris India, Omega Watches, Apollo Hospitals, Being Human, Aston Martin, The Collective, Ballantines, Jaguar and Budweiser among others.

L’oreal and Omega Watches were the first brands to hop on to Wowsome’s Augmented Reality bandwagon. “Brands in the niche market, that are not typical advertisers and are very creative with their ads, were the first to experiment with Augmented Reality,” informs Bhangay, adding that brands, which have an eye on reaching their client innovatively, are the ones who will pounce on Augmented Reality first.

The duo feels that the reason why Augmented Reality hasn’t kicked off in India so far is because the technology is difficult to explain. Reddy says, “Augmented Reality is very complicated to explain and the best way is to show clients what it actually does: its immersiveness, the awe factor and the kind of emotions that it puts. In a very natural way, it is a brand engagement medium, which offers very targeted and customized advertising. We got the positioning right and got a product, which is easy to use and hence the penetration happened. The model we created was able to excite most businesses.”

Reddy and Bhangay are keen to see Augmented Reality grow as an industry in itself. “We want Augmented Reality to become an industry. Of course we have a brand, which serves brands and consumers, but we would want to set a standard for what Augmented Reality could actually do for the industry. On the consumer front, we want to tell people how it works and what all one can do with it,” asserts Bhangay.

Wowsome, as part of its engagement strategy for consumers, is not just offering goodies, but working on interesting content, which would force the customers to stick to the brand. “A whole season of Augmented Reality is waiting,” opines Bhangay.

While Wowsome is enrolling brands, the brands in turn are bringing in the customers. “Compare this with e-commerce. People complained that it wouldn’t work, but with the kind of drive and investments, we have become the most promising e-commerce nation. We hope the same will happen with Augmented Reality,” says Reddy.

Wowsome, according to Reddy, is very economical and provides a great Return on Investment (ROI). “Our business model broadly is to offer 10 to 15 per cent incremental cost on the existing print spend to add an interactive Augmented Reality feature. From that perspective, brands find it economical. It is being used as a sales story by many,” adds Reddy.

Great Augmented Reality campaigns deliver a seamless experience where users cannot differentiate between the real world and its virtual augmentation. With 160 million smart phone users in India braced by steady 3G data, expected to grow by a staggering 225 million before the end of 2015, Augmented Reality will soon be ubiquitous as the ultimate mass medium of advertising.

While currently Augmented Reality is sharing the revenue pie with the print or digital spends, the duo is hopeful that in the next two years, brands will set aside separate budgets for the medium. Another advantage of Augmented Reality is that companies can get real time data on customers who are interacting with the brand, which gives them a better chance to convert visitors into buyers.

Brands that hop on to the new medium soon will benefit, according to Reddy and Bhangay, while those who are applying the wait and watch philosophy could just miss the bus when the medium sees an explosion in the next few years.

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