The evolution of AR: from puppy dog to marketing selfie

24 October 2019

Since autumn 2015 and the outbreak of filters on Snapchat, the possibilities of creation with AR filters have exploded. Facebook, Instagram and more generally the marketing world have handled this tool to create unique augmented user experiences.

Releasing of the AR

Do you remember when everyone was barfing rainbows with the Snapchat filter? Well, it was already 4 years ago, and things have quite changed since then. 

Snapchat has been the front runner regarding the AR filters. They have helped everyone make easy augmented reality, using their own smartphone camera. Users are keen on new selfies experiences and AR filters offer what they want. Indeed, the downloads of Snapchat application registered a 41% boost the days after the release of its gender swap filter.

In 2017, amid the huge success of Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram have introduced face filters on their own platforms. While many memes flourished about how Instagram has copy-pasted the success’ recipe of Snapchat, Instagram’s VP Kevin Weil argued “this is the way tech industries work”. And he’s right, progress will happen among competition. This couldn’t be more true because today Silicon Valley is not the only one in the AR filters industry. 

Since Zuckerberg allowed third-parties to create custom AR filters on his platforms, companies have been developing fun and high-quality lenses: Kylie Jenner, Buzzfeed, the NBA, or Rihanna to only mention the superstars. 

Anyone can enter the game and some are killing it. Masquerade (MSQRD) could be considered as the epitome of the AR startup’s success story. Their “celebrity filters” – making you look like famous stars as Leonardo Dicaprio – have caught the attention of Facebook that acquired the Belarusian application, praising that: « Masquerade has built a fantastic app, MSQRD, with world-class imaging technology for video”.

Young creators are shaking the rules of AR filters 

Furthermore, it looks like the social media is not ready to stop its AR adventure.  Indeed, in 2017, they launched the AR Spark Studio, a free tool that allows anyone to make easy augmented reality by building their own filter. Today, 60 000 amateurs have joined the community and it has become a creative lab that pushes the border of face filters aesthetics.

Johanna Jawskowska blew up the internet with her now famous Beauty 3000 filter, making anyone look good thanks to a super cool glossy cyborg filter. Also, offers an interesting donuts crown filter and mate_steinforth a filter where your face is blocked with glitch. AR Spark Studio enables creators to share their filters on Facebook and Instagram. So once you follow the creator’s account, you can try out their filters and share your augmented reality photos and videos.

These young creators are dusting off the industry, filters are not only about “enhancing” your beauty or making you look “cool”, it can also be creepy, weird or wtf. 

The launch of AR Spark Studio has definitely marked a shift in the AR industry, because not only the wall between amateurs and professionals lowers, but the limits of aesthetics have been broken.  

Beauty 3000 filter – Johanna Jawskowska 

According to Google, Android users post 93 millions selfie everyday, and this number will probably continue to grow.

AR filters are making Marketing changing 

Thus, marketing has joined the dance and gave birth to the advertising selfie. Last year, Michael Kors launched their selfie-advertising on Facebook, where users could try out Kors’ sunglasses on their face in AR. L’oréal made beauty gurus happy with their visual try-on makeup, giving clients the opportunity to try different colors of lipsticks, eyeshadows or eyeliners. This is definitely the beginning of a new marketing era, providing brand new experiences and entertainment. It gives a funny customer experience, miles away from traditional cold advertising that would probably get “Adblocked” by dull users. Everyone is so done being obliged to watch a cat food ad between two songs on YouTube. In 2017, 615 millions devices were using adblock, and this number can’t be denied as it would probably grow.

When users are tired of pervasive promotions, privileging the fun and the experience is definitely the key to stand out in the jungle of advertisement. Approaching filters with quirky eyes, and combining them with smart marketing strategies is probably the winning formula.

Therefore, inviting young creators and start-ups to the scene would shake old aesthetics or marketing rules, giving a breeze of fresh air for everyone. 

People were speculating that 2019 would be the year of the explosion of AR, and it might be. FaceApp, a mobile AR application that makes you look older, goes viral again after its 2017 smile filter as 150 million people downloaded it by now. It has also become a hot potato with growing concerns about data privacy and the possibility for the application to re-use the uploaded picture for other purposes, the whole against a backdrop of geopolitical tensions with Russia – the host country of the app. This issue shows AR marketers that people still love new and entertaining AR content, as long as their privacy is not at stake, but the line between acceptable and invasive may be thin and different depending on users.

In 4 years the virtual filters’ landscape has changed substantially. Other platforms than Snapchat have introduced these devices and selfies are from now on used as a marketing tool to offer fun experiences to users. More and more designers create their own filters on Instagram, Facebook or Snapchat leading to a wider range of virtually augmented faces, with even more creative and astonishing effects. And soon we’ll be able to create easily our own 3D filter effects.

Will it be enough to keep appealing to the new generation and raise the interest of less digital ones?

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