A Quick Introduction: YouTube’s AR Capabilities

On June 18, YouTube launched a new AR feature for brands that allows viewers to virtually try on and buy makeup while watching their favorite beauty influencer use the same products in a tutorial. It’s as simple as turning on your front-facing camera, and seeing the lipstick virtually appear on your lips

This split screen feature takes advantage of YouTube and Google’s continued success with AR ads. While performing a test run this past year, YouTube found that 30 percent of video viewers chose to activate AR features when given the option. Viewers who activated AR then spent an average of 80 seconds engaging with content. 

YouTube is also starting to emphasize 360 ads, which were debuted alongside the AR ads. These 360 ads allow shoppers to rotate CPG and fashion items, such as shoes, as if they were holding them in the palm of their hand. Coupled with YouTube’s 2016 acquisition of FameBit, a service that connects influencers with marketers, AR has the potential to be a formidable force in driving brand awareness and  overall engagement rate with ads on YouTube.

When discussing YouTube’s goal in building a stronger connection between beauty brands and creators, Doreen Dinour, senior partner lead at FameBit, stated “what we are really focused on is fostering the connection between YouTube creators and brands for creator-driven, branded content. We also see it as a way to bring more accountability into the [influencer] space, because we can leverage Google’s audience insights and advanced measurements, and see what creators are actually resonating for a brand”.

The first brand that YouTube is partnering with for its AR ad units is MAC Cosmetics. Their joint influencer marketing campaign uses AR ads to encourage viewers to try on an entire line of products in various shades and textures, and finalize purchases in-app. Fans can simultaneously shop and try-on makeup while watching a makeup tutorial thanks to YouTube’s split-screen styling. In regards to MAC’s collaboration with AR ads, Senior Vice President at MAC Cosmetics, Anges Landau, stated, “our partnership with Famebit is our latest digital innovation, bringing color and artistry from MAC stores to creators and their fans on YouTube…we’re excited to introduce our brand and products to new audiences.”


The Difference Between AR and 360 Ads

360 ads, also known as Swirl ads, allows for three-dimensional aspects to be showcased and advertised in a digital, seemingly flat, atmosphere of a phone or computer screen. Users are able to interact with the ad by zooming in and out, focusing on different aspects of the ad, or shift their phone or screen to change the perspective of the ad. For an example of a 360 Ad, see the New Balance rendering below.

AR allows for an interaction that feels more authentic to consumers. Being able to alter the world around you on a computer or mobile screen is something that fascinates people. It can be used in a way that is fun and playful, educational, exploratory, or in Youtube’s case, a way to shop and explore new brands. AR has endless possibilities that allows consumers to explore aspects that they would have never experienced before.  


Mavrck POV: YouTube is Trying to Win Back Marketers’ Ad Budgets

YouTube’s push for AR comes at a time when retailers have cut their YouTube ad spending by 20 percent. Where YouTube is among the most popular platforms for influencer marketing and the adoption of AR features by viewers is now mainstream, the application of both in an interactive ad format introduces a new era of influencer collaborations and advertising capabilities. 

Given the sheer scale that YouTube provides, in addition to the maturity of measurement available for this feature (think: tracking brand interest, lift, view-through conversion and impact on Google search), YouTube’s AR capabilities have the ability to rival the likes of Snapchat and Instagram, the dominant players in the space thus far. What’s particularly noteworthy about YouTube’s investment in AR is the application in the influencer marketing space to deliver virtual product experiences within an ad unit, as well as advances in measurement. The fact that its impact on Google search alone can be measured makes this a big test-and-learn opportunity for brands – particularly in the fashion, CPG and automotive verticals. 

How Can Marketers Use AR?


Currently, YouTube’s AR ad units are only available to select brands, limiting influencers’ use. The only way influencers can work with the AR ad unit is if the influencer hosts a video on the brand’s main account. For example, a content creator must share their video using MAC Cosmetics main YouTube account. 

It will be interesting to see YouTube’s AR ads develop further. If successful, it would not be unexpected to see YouTube expand the ad’s capabilities to anyone who desires to advertise a product via AR. If this be the case, marketers who are working in the fashion, retail, beauty, and CPG industries have the opportunity to partner with YouTube creators who are also experts in their respective verticals. These expert content creators will likely be excited and welcoming to marketers who bring the opportunity to use AR in their videos. It would not be surprising to see AR ads increase engagement for the creators, as consumers have shown to be incredibly engaging with AR. It is a win-win for both parties and something that consumers will be excited to participate in.

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