Burger King’s innovative AR campaign proves that while we wait for inexpensive augmented reality glasses, you can do creative immersive tech advertising through Smartphones. It shows how engaging AR marketing can be and gives you a glimpse of how retail will be disrupted by augmented and mixed reality.
And it will raise interesting ethical challenges. What happens when a company’s ads are appropriated in a competitor’s advertising campaign? Digital and analog marketing have done this before, but now the act of appropriation becomes profoundly simple. A competitor’s ad is just a marker for your own.
Think ahead to a Ready Player One or Blade Runner-type world. You can envision layers of augmentation where every sign is just a marker for another sign. Shift over to semiotics for just a moment, where every signifier is a detour to another signifier and the signified is infinitely malleable.
In the long run, spatial computing will turn our physical environment into something as fluid as the Web. The possibilities – for good and ill – are as endless as our current life in social media. Retail advertising is only of the many areas that will be upended by augmented reality.
An Innovative AR Campaign
Unfortunately, Burger King’s innovative AR campaign is only available in Brazil at the moment. It’s incredibly engaging and fun. All you have to do is point your Smartphone at one of their competitor’s advertisements such as MacDonalds. Pretty much any ad type will work – a printed page, coupon or billboard.
In the AR app, the competitor’s ad goes up in flames revealing a coupon for a free Whopper. Of course, it rifts off of Burger King’s long-standing selling point (since 1954) of flame-broiled burgers. Prepared for a huge response, Burger King expects to give away over a half million Whoppers.
The company’s done creative marketing using the fire theme before. In 2017, they ran a campaign with actual news-scene images of their retail locations that caught fire. Flame grills don’t always stop with the burgers. Now, the AR app puts the fire on their competitors’ ads.
Here’s Burger King’s video promo for the new AR campaign.
The Drum quoted Ariel Grunkraut, Burger King’s marketing and sales director for Brazil.
Technology as a means to provide the best customer experience is one of our main investment targets in 2019. To create the BK Express experience, our exclusive payment technology via mobile phone available all around Brazil, we offer some fun interaction in augmented reality for our brand’s lovers through the app. And those using the service also gets a free Whopper.
Moreover, since the new AR campaign app includes a payment feature, burning through a competitor’s advertisement puts the free Whopper directly in your cart. It’s creative augmented reality, smartly done.
AR Will Transform Retail
But as businesses embrace augmented reality, they could easily lose control of their advertising campaigns. Placing a virtual chair in your living room is a simple example of retail augmented reality. Utilizing a competitor’s ad campaign or other materials is in a different realm altogether.
Again, from The Drum,
The BK app promo was created exclusively for Brazil to promote BK Express, a tech tool allowing any customer to pre-order and avoid lines. The strategy allows Burger King to turn the media investments of its main rival, such as billboards, magazine ads, discount coupons and others, into their ads of their own.
That hurts. Those acts of appropriation pile on each other, with businesses undercutting each others media investments. And it could spread beyond retail marketing to non-profits and university ad campaigns. Surely it will be used as a weapon by political organizations. It feels like the beginning of a new marketing arms race (as if we don’t live in one already). At some point, this will most likely end up in the courts. Burger King’s innovative AR campaign is just a foretaste of what’s to come in an augmented reality world.
And the complications continue. As Pokemon Go revealed, there will instances where augmented reality crosses a line. Will AR advertisements appear in war memorials or museums? If your competitor pushes the boundaries of what’s socially acceptable, will you be forced to do the same?
None of this is easy to resolve. Even now, physical signage and advertising in store windows are regulated. (Even Times Square in NYC is a highly regulated version of over-the-top advertising to echo a mid-twentieth century version.)
AR will open the floodgates for marketing creativity and overreach. Actually, it will force us to redefine what constitutes public space in a world infused with immersive technologies.
Burger King’s “Burn That Ad” campaign is an engaging way to implement AR marketing. The real fun – and the challenges – begins when AR Glasses are as ubiquitous as our Smartphones are today.
Emory Craig is a writer, speaker, and VR consultant with extensive experience in art, new media, and higher education. He speaks at global conferences on innovation, education, and ethical technology in the future. He has published widely and worked with the US Agency for International Development, the United Nations, and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Living at the intersection of learning, games, and immersive storytelling, he is fascinated by AI-based avatars, digital twins, and the ethical implications of blurring the boundaries between the real and the virtual.