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Instagram will allow brands to create custom AR filters

Last month Snapchat announced a new feature – custom filters for advertisers. Businesses can now pay Snapchat to create a custom lens which showcases their product or allows viewers to interact with an object or text of the firm’s choice.

Many advertisers have already used the feature, mostly to promote films or make-up products, with moderate success. Snapchat boasted a 19 point increase in awareness and a 9% sales boost as a result of the lenses. This new advertising method is being propelled towards brands by the argument that the way millennials are using technology is increasingly 3-dimensional, and unless brands adapt they will be unable to understand and reach younger audiences. There is truth to this argument, and the evolution of advertising has pushed businesses closer and closer to virtual reality in the past few years. The transition may be a natural one. Undoubtedly, the ramifications of incorporating advertising into another, previously untouched part of Snapchat are unclear. The ads may be the revitalising innovation that Snapchat needs to emerge out of its death spiral, or they may be the fatal blow.

The new ads look incredible and manage to be much more interactive than any other advert. They are colourful, full of movement and draw attention. In addition, the novelty of interacting with a brand in a three-dimensional space could offset any user annoyance about more advertising being introduced. And if the concept and execution of the lenses are creative and fun, users could actually enjoy the ads, which would have unimaginable consequences for marketing.

The push towards making advertisements which users will enjoy has gained traction in the past year, with a growing number of brands choosing unorthodox advertisements to make their product stand out. But so far, all of these unorthodox ads have existed in a two-dimensional, impersonal setting of traditional ‘broadcast’ style. Ads are videos, posters, images, but they are never truly interactive. Snapchat can change that.

What the app has proved over the past seven years is that the pull of augmented reality is irresistible, especially so if one can become part of the augmented landscape. A multitude of selfies with various filters is a staple in photo galleries of most millennials, and Snapchat reports that the average user spends around three minutes a day trying out lenses. This is a considerable amount of time, and a huge amount of potential.

The only downside to introducing ads into lenses is that the platform may become dominated by sponsored messages, which over time could make users lose interest. While the artistic execution of the adverts may delay this, eventually the novelty will wear off and the sponsored lenses will feel like another nuisance.

However this plays out, it will be interesting to observe.

What is really fascinating about this new feature on Snapchat is that it is a sneak peek into the future of brand-customer interaction. Augmented reality is not slowing its roll, and it is very possible that in the near future there is potential for entire virtual worlds to be made not only by game developers and other creators, but by brands. After all, there is no better advert for a car than racing it in virtual reality. The possibilities are endless.

For now, though, companies may want to take advantage of the Snapchat feature. While it is new, and the creative potential is not exhausted, people will react to any advert that is well-made. The novelty of a brand lens will wear off, so it has to be used now, before the platform becomes too congested.