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Volkswagen augmented reality ad effort falls short

Augmented reality has tremendous potential for adding value to ad campaigns, but in its infancy, experiments are often falling flat, like Volkswagen’s latest effort.

volkswagen augmented reality

volkswagen augmented reality

Volkswagen gives augmented reality a shot

Augmented reality is a third layer of reality seen only through the lens of a camera (most frequently smartphones), like the yellow lines you see on the football field when watching from home. The technology adds information and interactivity to the real world that

Various companies have started using the technology through print efforts in mailers, magazines, and more, for example, IKEA catalogs this year offer augmented reality so that smartphone users can see inside cabinets, get tips, and interact with the actual items for sale. Most efforts have been pretty simple, so Volkswagen tried to step up the game through a newspaper effort:

[pl_video type=”youtube” id=”CsTtNaSCzCc”]

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How the effort fell short

While the newspaper ad for their new model is engaging and does go a step beyond a simple print ad, it comes across as silly and a missed opportunity. As seen in the video above, the reader can scan a QR code, download the augmented reality app, and begin driving the new Volkswagen car through the newspaper’s gutter space.

The good news is that it is clever and fun, and appears on all accounts to have the capacity to capture attention, so it is a clever branding effort, but is it marketing? There’s no call to action, there’s nothing to do after a person diddles with the car in the newspaper gutters, and it doesn’t showcase anything unique or different about the actual model, just that it’s a little car. Okay.

Additionally, although the effort is attractive, it fails to offer anything new or interesting, so it comes across as a gimmick. The last, and most important problem we see with the app is that it interacts with very serious content. Do you see the headlines in the picture at the top of the page? The little Volkswagen is playfully zipping by a story on the left about people being slaughtered in Syria. Not good.

While we applaud the company for hiring a team that is forward thinking enough to implement an augmented reality effort, it has to either be new (never before seen), something a buyer can’t live without, or rewarding to the user. It’s a novel effort, and looks fun, but it falls short.

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Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.



  1. incog AR

    February 11, 2013 at 9:33 am

    As a developer, an article like this is invaluable. AR development has to pass the question of “So?”

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