The Campaign Goes AR: Should (Augmented) Reality Be Biddable?
Listen to the negative campaigning up and down the electoral tickets in most local markets and you would think that the only people who run for office in this great country are borderline Communists, robber barons, race baiters, incompetent loafers, misogynists, congenital liars and class warriors. Fueled by unfettered PAC money, the first casualty of this no-holds-barred media environment is the truth. Reality? We are now in an age where the mainstream media are asking a question that I recall only we cultural theorists asked in our graduate seminars in the 1980s: "Whose reality?"
But sometimes 'reality' can be manipulated in more creative and productive ways. The augmented reality platform Blippar recently deployed a fun AR deployment to use on $5 and $10 bills. Hold their app over a $5 note or Obama campaign logo and an interactive interface for Obama bursts from the bill. Much of the content is pretty much a mobile Web site for the campaign, including links to volunteering and the tax calculator that compares the effect on your taxes of Obama’s plan vs. Romney’s. In a clever bit of AR business, a superimposed Presidential standup can high-five with anyone in view of the camera.
The Romney AR routine starts upon viewing a $10 bill with the candidate’s "5 Point Plan" spinning prominently. There are links for grassroots organizing and Mitt’s own AR photo opp -- handshaking with the candidate.
Blippar says that with three billion $5 and $10 bills now in circulation, this offers AR a massive reach on behalf of campaigns. "This is the first time anyone has hijacked a national currency to deliver content to the people, and it’s a great reflection of the potential this technology has for campaigning," states Blippar co-founder and SMO Jess Butcher in a statement.
Well, I am not sure any of us need more media tools for political campaigns. But the technique of leveraging a common object for AR does raise an interesting prospect for marketers. Who should own (or lease) the virtual AR real estate of a piece of U.S. currency -- or anything else in the real world, for that matter?
Consider that by using smartphone cams and AR, everyday physical objects could become something like keywords in search. What if Google Goggles/Glass, for instance, put landmarks and cityscapes up for bid? As we see search move into AR tools this model becomes a perfectly reasonable extension of Web models. What are AR rights worth to the Empire State Building or Times Square, the $1 bill, a sneaker, a hamburger, a celebrity’s face? Will there be attempts to poach or protect corporate logos in AR bids? Can Pepsi buy a place in the AR trigger on a Coke can?
In a sense, search bidders own pieces of the language on Google and Bing. Can they own pieces of physical reality in the in-between real/virtual world of AR?