Top takeouts from IAB UK’s first AR roundtable

Posted on Thursday 15 February 2024

Our first AR roundtable brought together businesses from across the industry to discuss how to make AR an integral part of media plans

“What we want to come away with today is a head full of things that can accelerate growth in augmented reality”, explained James Chandler, IAB UK’s CMO, opening our inaugural AR roundtable at The Hoxton. Shared standards, education and debunking myths were all on the agenda as we assembled some of the most exciting companies in this space for a morning of debate. 

Chandler set up the roundtable by sharing key findings from IAB Compass, including the fact that activating  AR as part of the media mix is currently seen as a longer-term goal for 48% of advertisers, vs 15% who see it as an opportunity in the immediate term. As he put it, we need to work out “how to make AR a priority for advertisers in the short-term, rather than something they’re thinking about for 3 years down the line”.

“Transforming the way we think about digital” 

people having a discussion


Will Scougal, Founder & CEO of Make My Day, told attendees that “we have an opportunity to put a flag in the ground and raise our collective voices” when it comes to AR. While Statista estimates that AR has an audience of 1.7bn people, Scougal said that fragmentation in the market is hindering the ability to get a full picture of the augmented audience and accurately scale the opportunity. 

While cohesiveness and standardisation are needed, no one questions the fact that “the ingredients for effective advertising are abundant in AR”. It marries extremely high attention rates with the ability to connect with Gen Z and millennials in new ways. “We’re seeing a massive shift in the way that brands can turn up via the screen that everyone carries around with them, and in the space that surrounds us all… it’s where you and your friends can appear in the creative by choice,” Scougal explained. In fact, AR is the second fastest growing mobile format behind video. 

Speaking to representatives from across the AR space - including Spark Foundry, We Are Social and Meta - Scougal said that there is clearly a “willingness and desire to create change” and urged the people in the room to come together to achieve things they can’t do on their own. 

“We have eight different names for AR” 

Discussion focused on the opportunities and challenges that AR currently presents for advertisers. Clear themes emerged across the breakout groups, including: 

  • The need to address fragmentation

This relates to terminology - as one attendee said, “we’ve covered eight different names for AR just in that conversation” - as well as to metrics. On the latter, the consensus was that the industry needs to agree on shared benchmarks and universal metrics, as well as demonstrating the role that AR executions play as an incremental multiplier when overlaid with other channels. On terminology, Scougal encouraged the room to unify behind ‘AR’ as a moniker - despite the nuances and variations - as it’s more understood and accepted by the mainstream than terms such as ‘blended reality’. 

  • AR on media plans 

While AR is currently championed by innovation teams in agencies, it’s not yet a stalwart on media plans. That shift relies on increasing standardisation within the channel and education within planning teams on how it can be effectively scaled and used alongside other media. As one delegate put it, “there is masses of opportunity but that is also hindering things” as it can be hard to know what direction to take. 

  • Shouting about success

“We always shout about the work that we do, but as an industry it’s very siloed” was the overriding feedback here. While there are countless great examples of creative AR brand activations, a perception exists that “you have to spend half a million quid to have an impact” and that “brands don’t know what really works.” Establishing a clear understanding of effectiveness is essential to unlock future growth. 

The IAB as a unifying voice 

The need for education, alignment and collaboration came through strongly from those in attendance, with the IAB uniquely positioned to help bring that about: “I’d like to see the IAB taking a leadership role in this space and become a unifying voice… a lot of the time it’s individuals talking about their perspectives.” The general consensus was that priorities should include developing a shared narrative about AR and its role as a multiplier for other channels, as well as a clear understanding of its effectiveness. 

Looking ahead, our ambition is for this roundtable to lead to the creation of an IAB AR Working Group and potentially an AR IAB Upfront to celebrate and promote the opportunities to advertisers.

People sitting at a round table interacting


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