Discovery Channel's most popular television shows. Unfortunately for most tech nerds, it's not Mythbusters, though I wouldn't be surprised if the campaign was successful enough to spread to other shows. Instead, Discovery is promoting its docu-drama hit Deadliest Catch with a desktop-based AR ad campaign.Fans of augmented reality (AR) will be excited to learn that their favorite emerging technology is now front and center of a brand new marketing campaign based around one of the
During episodes of the popular show, Alaskan king crab fishing enthusiasts are encouraged to visit a special webpage where they can print a flier that allows them to experience the adrenaline pumping action of "crabbing" for themselves. Okay, not really, but the experience - a 3D game controlled by the flier - actually looks pretty neat. By holding the flier up to a webcam, users can steer a 3D fishing boat that appears on the flier in a race against the clock to snatch up 20 crab pots (see video below).
The experience was developed by Total Immersion, one of the top AR vendors profiled in our recently published report on augmented reality marketing. Though the popular show has just returned for its sixth season earlier this week, the AR game was tested in March with the show's Facebook fans - an effort that the company says reached over a quarter of a million viewers. But one of the great things about this AR experience is not the game itself, but rather the all out blitzkrieg of marketing behind it to make sure it reaches as many people as possible.
Discovery and their marketing agency PHD are not only promoting the game through on-air mentions during episodes of the show, they are also providing print, online and experiential (ie: big trucks with giant monitors parked in public locations) advertisements as well. The print ads are running in some of the most popular magazines on newstands today, including ESPN the Magazine, Sports Illustrated, People and Entertainment Weekly.
The online ads can be found similarly targeted websites, including ESPN.com, MSN.com and TVguide.com. The public kiosk-style displays were parked last week in Union Square and Citi Field (home of the Mets) in New York and in Washington D.C. at Nationals Stadium and on the National Mall. Clearly PHD sees sports fans as a crucial cross section of Deadliest Catch fans, as they strategically placed the kiosks at baseball stadiums during the first week of the MLB season.
But I'm not excited that Deadliest Catch is getting a big marketing push for the debut of its new season, I'm thrilled that augmented reality is at the center of it, and is getting huge play infront of mainstream eyeballs. A prominent campaign for one the highest rated shows on a very popular cable channel is exactly the primetime exposure that AR needs to keep pushing on the brink of universal adoption.
That being said, there could be a downside to this exposure. Is this experience the best form of AR that should be placed in the national spotlight? Could this further the notion that AR is a gimmicky advertising trick because of the gaming aspect? There are plenty of experiences, which we have discussed at length, that provide practical services and applications by way of AR, and steering a fishing boat is hardly one of them. My fear, as a fan of the technology, is that widespread exposure of this type could actually damage AR's growing reputation.
So I guess theres a bit of a risk/reward balance that needs to be found in these AR experiences with the potential to reach millions of viewers. The chance to put the technology infront of that many people is impossible to turn down, but at the same time, depending on the application, it could backfire and leave a lasting impression in many minds that AR is nothing but a fun toy that ad agencies get to play with in hopes of engaging users with the "wow factor."
Personally I have a preference for AR experiences that actually provide a practical service, but I can't help but be excited for this new campaign from Discovery and Total Immersion.