Oath takes a page from Snapchat with new AR mobile ad format

Verizon-owned Oath is pushing a new set of mobile ad units, including an augmented reality advertising format. Oath’s AR ads will be produced by Oath’s creative arm RYOT Studio, and will be powered by Yahoo Gemini native advertising product.

The AR ads will be delivered to consumers on mobile phones within apps like Yahoo Mail. Consumers will be able to click on the ads to enter the “immersive” experience which accesses the phone’s camera in order to project virtual objects onto real world environs. In that way, Oath’s ad format works much like Snapchat’s AR filter adverts.

Oath has signed up two brands for the new ad format: Home Depot, which will see consumers placing objects like a Christmas tree in their own living rooms; and Pottery Barn, which will use the ad format to project furniture pieces into consumers’ homes.

These are the types of retail environments that many have argued will benefit most immediately from AR and even VR applications. And it’s clear retailers are eager to explore and exploit the potential of AR-driven e-commerce. Williams-Sonoma, which owns Pottery Barn, recently acquired an AR imaging startup, Outward, in a $112 million bet on AR shopping. Ikea has launched an AR app for iOS, as has home décors firm Houzz and Wayfair, and even Amazon.

Phonemakers Apple and Google alike are poised to benefit from the mobile AR trend. Apple’s AR developer kit has solved many of the technical issues that have plagued earlier iterations of AR. The “world tracking” feature of the AR kit uses the iPhone camera to digitally map a room, which serves to add accuracy to the placement and sizing of the virtual objects being projected into the real world. Ikea claims its AR iOS app is able to size objects with up to 98% accuracy, with true-to-life representations of things like fabric texture and even lighting and shadows.

The benefit of relying on smartphone cameras to power AR experiences is obvious, in that everyone has a smartphone, but there are some drawbacks. Google’s ARCore, which was launched last fall, does not require a software upgrade but won’t be available for all Android phones, and has garnered a reputation of being a tad glitchy. Still, Google claims it has turned some 100 million Android phones into AR devices.

Facebook has also launched an AR developer kit, and has been experimenting with Snapchat-like AR face filters for its broadcast platform. It’s only a matter time of before Facebook extends these experiments to revenue-generating advertising formats.

The moves add to a growing body of evidence that indicate AR will win out over VR in terms of cross-industry revenue-generating applications of the technology. Goggles-free AR won’t face the same adoption hurdles as VR in the short term, for one thing.

But there’s still a question around AR as a display-like advertising format that requires consumers to click on the ads. In an environment like Snapchat, the ads are seamlessly integrated into the app’s other features. But at a time when consumers are fed up with intrusive display ads, will any consumers want to click on an AR ad while checking their email? Probably not. Instead, those types of use cases will be most effective in dedicated shopping apps.