How Pokémon Go could be a game-changer for advertising

It’s the fastest-growing app on the planet and it’s making augmented reality 'real' for consumers. MediaCom’s Nicole Amodeo explains the new advertising model.

Pokémon Go is a tipping point for location-based gaming. After years of talking about the potential of location and augmented reality, we now have a mobile app that brings those experiences to life for consumers.

Thanks to faster mobile connections, unlimited data and smart phones, millions are now watching their phone screen and custom Google map overlays as they walk around to identify significant landmarks or “Pokéstops” where they can capture creatures from Bulbasaurs to Jigglypuffs and earn points.

Launched in the US on July 7, 2016 and currently rolling out across the world, Pokémon Go has quickly become one of the most viral mobile apps of all time and is rumoured to have topped Twitter’s daily user numbers.

In just seven days the app – which is backed by both Nintendo and Google – was downloaded 7.5 million times – more than double the amount that Tinder – the high-profile and controversial dating app – has achieved in four years.

Pokémon Go, however, is not just for kids and kidults, it’s also creating a host of new business opportunities, moments when brands are able to bring customers to their front door or promote goods and services through the game.

Critically, it is the first time that AR and location have been combined in a way that attracts a scalable audience and it offers opportunities around both paid advertising and integration.

It’s likely that formal ad opportunities will be created quickly. Niantic, the Google-owned company that created the game, currently has a virtual reality game called Ingress that already has paid locations, sponsored by the likes of Jamba Juice and Zipcar in the US.  It currently charges a “cost per visit” for these experiences.

Paid “Pokéstops”, which encourage players to visit a particular building or location, represent an obvious opportunity.  This is already a key part of the game and will be a natural fit, helping bricks and mortar businesses pull in footfall.

When the game launched in Japan it did so with sponsored locations at 3,000 McDonald’s outlets. The CEO of Niantic, has already said that embedding sponsored locations will be a great way to bring in additional income, so expect similar deals, not just in new game markets but also in existing ones.

Pokémon Go also has in-app purchases for power-ups, a key source of revenue for the free to download app. Brands could offer to pay for these power-ups to consumers who are willing to watch a video or undertake a given action.

The key takeaway for brands is that this is an app that is creating a new set of consumer behaviours and introducing people to a new technology, albeit one that already existed.

Pokémon Go is gaining the critical mass it needs to become a media owner. And as well as attracting a mass consumer audience, it’s also generating a wealth of understanding about how consumers move (linked to existing Google logins) that brands could use to enable smarter targeting.

As with any new platform, the brands that get in early will be able to develop more flexible opportunities that are integrated and seamless.

It offers a great way for brands to test and learn with augmented reality on a platform that is both scalable and has potentially immersive media opportunities.

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