AR advertising is an intrusive, cross-platform mess. Can this startup help?

CameraIQ is hoping to declutter the sensory assault of AR advertising, even as it unlocks cross-platform ad serving.

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An AR advertising technology startup called CameraIQ, which offers a suite of tools that enable brands to create AR marketing experiences for customers, today released a social distribution solution that allows AR content to be posted across competing channels, including Facebook and Snapchat. The move seeks to address the increasingly fractured landscape of smartphone-based AR, which currently exists in a diverse and expanding ecosystem of apps, contributing to general consumer confusion and unease about the technology.

Across the industry, the announcement is seen as a signpost that AR ads are on the way in a much more pervasive way than we've seen.

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The announcement follows news by both Facebook and Snap that further confirm the arrival of AR advertising. Facebook announced it was testing AR ads in July. A couple months later, Snap unveiled a beta version of its native AR ad creation capability for enterprise.

Mozilla, meanwhile, is pushing web AR, and Shopify recently announced it was using Apple's AR tech in its platform.

"Facebook and Snap have taken a major step forward in developing the AR ecosystem with paid advertising. Just as we saw with social, this is the moment where AR goes from nice-to-have content, to a key component of any digital strategy," said Allison Wood, CEO and co-founder of Camera IQ.

I spoke to Wood at length last month, covering everything from the technological underpinnings of the AR universe to the delicacy and importance of this moment to the future of AR. To her mind, the biggest fear is that too many brands will approach Augmented Reality as just another place to stick popups.

"Right now the ad paradigm is disruptive and intrusive," Wood told me. "But the best ads don't feel like advertisements. They're not disruptive, but additive. If we start filling the world with just advertisements where we're just selling people, we'll squander an opportunity."

To her mind, that opportunity is defined by actual engagement between customers and experiences that curated by brands. Snapchat, through its offering of funny facial distortion effects, is inviting users to exercise and share their creativity. When brands build AR ads with the same kind of emphasis on choice, creativity, and improvisation, the result is authentic connection.

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"You're creating an opportunity for the end user to create with you. It's not a passive engagement but a co-creation process. Whether or not users share or record the experience, as business you are giving the keys over to a customer to manipulate an environment."

The throttle on that kind of ad creation has been the fractured distribution environment. Many brands have had a difficult time investing heavily in AR advertising because putting out AR ads means building ads to suit a particular platform.

CameraIQ, which takes its name from the pervasive smartphone camera at the center of consumer AR experiences, hopes that breaking down the barriers to distribution will result in great investment in quality AR advertising by brands, which means (hopefully) less of a pop-up ad approach.