Stepping Out of an Ad

Have you ever encountered a printed advertisement that really made the product on the page “come to life?” It’s hard to do, but it’s the goal of every agency and brand in the world. What if there were a technology that literally made the ad “leap off the page,” and at the same time was able to add more than just entertainment value to an otherwise static experience? Today, Indian technology startup Telibrahma is bringing exactly this type of technology to the US via a mobile augmented reality marketing platform that has been used to award-winning success internationally by brands including in Nike, Coke, Johnson & Johnson, Nokia, Toyota, Mercedes Benz, BMW, GM, and countless others.

Telibrahma’s Point platform (known as Interact in India) delivers real-time image and logo recognition in a way that goes far beyond other what has been seen to date in the US market. Consumers simply use their smartphone camera and a Point-enabled mobile app to scan a brand’s augmented reality image – whether it’s a magazine cover/page, a bus stop billboard, a newspaper, or any other point of entry – to gain access to interactive 2D or 3D visual overlays and even video demos of new products.

The first example I saw of the technology, which nearly made me drop my phone, was when a bikini-clad Maxim Magazine cover model literally turned around and walked away from me while playfully tossing her hair. If hallucinogens are not part of your daily regimen, this may be a healthy alternative. One of the more commercially compelling implementations of Point is a current Samsung Galaxy Note II campaign in India which allows the viewer to engage with a dynamic 3D animation of the already larger-than-life mobile handset. US VP of Business Development Patrick Aluise hints that a similar rollout could be coming stateside in the near future.

Point is literally what a QR code wishes it could be when it grows up. It’s a fully native, non-intrusive way to trigger external content from within a printed image. The big difference is, the trigger does not need to be an unsightly, visual isore, but rather can be literally any image or piece of editorial content.

As Aluise is quick to point out, the failure of QR codes has not been due to the technology, but due the uninspiring implementations that consumers came to associate with them. Too many companies that were eager to use “new technology” simply slapped a black and white maze on their ad, linked it to a non-mobile optimized website that added little value of any sort, and called it progress. A few encounters with this type of underwhelming experience and many consumers determined that all QR codes were uninteresting.

Telibrahma has found that the key to successful Point campaigns is adding a mix of both “wow” factor alongside incremental value for the consumer, whether it be entertainment, information, or a promotion. The company will work closely with brands and agencies to see that its more than six years of international learning translate to US. Because brands pay Telibrahma for Point campaigns on a cost per engagement basis, the company is directly aligned with its customers goals in maximizing the impact of each campaign.

There are a few real challenges facing Point, however. The first has to do with integrating a compelling call to action. If nothing else, QR codes stand out on a page and scream to the user, “There’s something here to interact with! (if you’re interested)” Telibrahma as not standardized its own equivalent of this trigger and thus each campaign currently handles it differently. The result is that many otherwise effective campaigns may go unnoticed for lack of a flashing neon sign that says “Scan me with your Point app.”

The second real challenge is that Point requires a proprietary mobile app, whether it be the company’s own or, in the future, a white-labeled integration with that of a third-party brand. If a user doesn’t already have the app on their phone, this download and install process may represent an undue point of friction in driving wide engagement.

Telibrahma has raised $7.25 million in outside capital via three rounds of financing, including most recently a $5 million November 2011 Series C led by Intel Capital, with participation from Inventus Capital Partners and Ojas Venture Partners. The Intel round was completed specifically with US expansion in mind.

Brands are constantly looking for new and innovative ways to engage with consumers. Point, quite literally, is the most unique and visually impressive technology solution to this problem that I’ve seen in quite some time. The company faces a genuine market awareness problem that will need to be addressed before widespread adoption is possible. But, with billions of brand advertising dollars looking for differentiation, it’s technology highly likely to get its moment in the spotlight shortly at a newsstand near you.

[Image via Teshah]