Advertising in the Age of Mixed Reality

I am fascinated by technology and its benefits. Tech news is typically the first news I see in my day. Advertising is my industry and I drop this technology news into my sphere. We’re in what feels like an incredible slipstream of movement towards everyday Mixed Reality and I think we’re in for a wild ride. I’m increasingly interested in where the two intersect.

Mixed Reality, if you are unfamiliar with the idea, is a lot like Augmented Reality. That is, the digital overlay of information onto your physical world; ranging from a speedometer on a car windshield to an app that uses your phone camera to display information about a given physical space. Virtual reality is separate, an immersive experience that completely occupies the users senses: in essence VR transports you to another place (a remarkable feat.) MR is a step beyond the immersion — it takes you further into the world you already inhabit. It is in its fledgling stages now, but we’ll see it go far beyond its current form. MR will integrate many inputs into a seamless experience that frees our senses. No more eyes down on a device, no more holding a device. If the goal of technology is to allow us to do more, give us more, to enable us as a species, then this is the natural progression.

One day Google Glass will be viewed as the bag phones that we saw in the early 90s. No slight or fault, simply the precursor to what we now use and interact with everyday — we owe quite a bit to the devices that test our societal tolerances to where technology is allowed to go. Technology advances at a surprising rate and we will see this stream of MR devices becoming smaller and smaller allowing us to digitally interface with our physical world with no interference.

Now let’s imagine the implications of this new reality on the advertising world. Our minds may leap to dystopian images of virtual signage covering every inch of our field of view — our inclination based on pop-up ads and the insistence of advertisers to invade our personal spheres every day. However, before we go down that path let’s consider: when was the last time you actually saw a pop-up ad? When was the last time you sought to see an ad? When was the last time you used an ad-blocker? I bet your answers to those questions were more and more recent. If it’s been months since you saw a pop-up ad (maybe years) It’s likely been weeks since you sought to view an ad and only days (maybe minutes) since you employed an ad-blocker.

These tendencies will not suddenly decrease as we enter into another age. Following a temporary adaptation to the environment, we will likely see ad-blocking increased. Following the streamlining of our ad experiences we will see increased participation with adverts. This MR experience will allow you to not only see an ad but to interact with it. Imagine shopping for makeup and seeing a YouTube influencer standing patiently beside your favorite makeup line and all you have to do is digitally engage with this person to see a tutorial with some of your favorite products. A digital how-to without having to access a second screen. Imagine a digital wardrobe overlay so you could virtually try on outfits while simply looking at yourself. Imagine a Tanqueray branded in-home tutorial about how to mix a Martini. All adding benefit, all in your MR experience, all ads.

In this world where ad-blockers and MR co-exist winning campaigns will be the big ideas. Great advertising is about big ideas, creativity, and compelling stories. That’s the dream — that someone looks at your ad and chooses to engage with it. It will be easier, of course, to have real interaction with the adverts. These ads will in part resemble interacting with a chat bot or NPC on a video game and more advanced versions will be like interacting with Comedy Central star Jay Pharoah in a Pepsi Spire machine.

Instead of billboards in our physical sphere, we’ll see billboards in our digital sphere — so much easier to change, update and segment. Engagement will be trackable, etc. Imagine a world where your lenses to your prescription glasses, your prescription contacts or a simple contact-like lens allowed a digital interface to be super-imposed on your physical world. When you looked around, you could receive information from your environment. You could interact with your environment like it was a physical interface. There are some years before we arrive at this mixed reality as reality, but we are headed there.

If you’re looking for a glimpse at the possibilities, look no further than Florida based Magic Leap. That’s what this is all about; the possibilities.