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Q&A: Why This Former Agency Exec Is Betting on Augmented Reality MediaCom’s Mark Fortner joins Blippar By Tim Baysinger

American psychologist Barry Schwartz wrote about the “Paradox of Choice” in 2004, wherin he argued that the abudance of choices for consumers was leading to increased anxiety. One could argue that same theory applies to advertisers as well.


Amid today’s fractured media world, brands have more ways than ever to get their message out, but many are still figuring out which resources to put where. Blippar, an augmented reality and image recognition platform that has worked with brands like Coca-Cola and General Mills, is aiming to prove why it should get a bigger share of the advertising pie.

Blippar started four years ago as sort of a conduit between brands and their products. For example, it worked with Maybelline on a campaign which allowed magazine readers to interact with an ad with a virtual color wheel and try on different nail colors. Now the company wants its app users to be able to “blipp” everyday objects, with the release of its newest next-generation app.

Blippar hopes that this will allow its branded content to be featured in more of the way it works with traditional media companies. The company is bringing on board Mark Fortner, who headed up branded content and innovation for MediaCom, to lead creative strategy.

Fortner spoke with Adweek about his new role and the huge push this year between virtual and augmented reality.

Adweek: Why did you go from the agency world into this space?
Mark Fortner: As I started to see where the industry is going, I hadn’t seen anything as compelling as Blippar. There’s nothing that I saw that I thought could really solve business problems like this could. I do believe that this year there’s going to be some inflection point. I think that content is completely overblown; I think we’re going to start to see less of that.

What can your company provide for brands that maybe other traditional forms of advertising can’t?
The industry talks a lot about paid, owned and earned media. But what’s happened is, nobody talks about the ‘owned.’ What Blippar does is really bring the owned to life. You have a cereal box, you have a bottle of water, you have a lipstick. Those products, when you’re at the shelf or you’re at home, a lot of times they are completely defenseless in their ability to communicate to you. [Blippar] provides that experience for brands. There’s been so much focus on paid experiences. [People say] lets create YouTube videos and all these things to get people to think about us, but then once you actually get to the shelf, you’re only as good as your memory of what you saw, what a friend told you.

The idea of an owned asset being able to create an experience that’s shareable and provides that kind of utility is something that is very unique and different. As we sort of get into the future of communications, I believe that there will be much more of a focus to this.

Everybody is creating content now. There are so many videos on YouTube. No brand has a real content strategy and there’s so much waste.

What are some examples of how this technology can work with brands?
A cereal box for kids could come to life. For a makeup brand, we could create an entire experience that shows them how to use the product, and why the product is different. For Coke, we created a music player. You hold your phone up to a can of coke and pair of earphones and you get Spotify music right there. It literally could be anything.

How widely adapted is this technology? You have all these cool experiences that brands can tap into, but you still need users to use the app.
The logo is on over 12 million products around the world. As the company moves forward to become more of this visual search engine, it becomes a much bigger part of your daily life.

There has been a lot of talk this year about virtual reality. Where do you guys see yourselves in that arena?
There’s a huge push between VR and augmented reality. We don’t see ourselves as competitive to that at all. The VR experience, whether it’s Google Cardboard or Oculus, you’re in sort of a cocoon. Which is a little bit different than what we do, which is bring the real world to life.

You think about how the internet has changed. People want that information rapidly. So with this idea of visual search, if you see something, instead of having to go online into a browser, try to type in what you see. If you see a flower, for example, and you want to know what kind of flower it is, it would be hard to explain what that is.




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