Blippar has been making modest waves in the press market since it launched in the UK in 2011 – advertisers that have used the company’s image-recognition technology to enhance print ads include Unilever, Nestlé, Diageo, Samsung and Cadbury.
Last week, it revived its ambitions in the TV market by partnering Paramount Pictures to add a Blippar-enhanced platform to the ad for Star Trek Into Darkness.
Once viewers have downloaded the Blippar app, they are able to interact with the ad by holding their phones up to the screen. The app then takes them to a branded interface that allows them to watch more trailer content on their phones and then buy local cinema tickets. The campaign was scheduled to run until the film’s UK release today (9 May).
You can argue, obviously, that this sort of thing is the perfect way for advertisers to take advantage of the so-called second-screen phenomenon, whereby viewers watch TV with half an eye on social media via their smartphones and tablets. It’s not beyond the bounds of possibility, surely, to prod them into different forms of TV-inspired interaction.
And, of course, the ultimate prize will be to drive significant amounts of digital commerce directly off the back of advertising, particularly that most potent form of advertising: the TV commercial. Blippar (and similar systems) could effectively open up a whole new era in DRTV.
On the other hand, those with longer memories might remember the sorry story of "red button" interactive TV advertising, which was much hyped by broadcasters but which failed to impress the public at large. The conclusion you might draw from that episode is that there is a limited appetite for enhanced TV advertising content – especially if it distracts the viewer from a real-time broadcast event.
In any case, you could question whether, over the longer term, the medium really needs second-screen tie-ins, because smart TV sets will soon turn television into the ultimate interactive medium anyway.
So, do image-recognition apps such as Blippar have a serious TV future?
YES, Jess Butcher, co-founder, Blippar
"We work with clients to ensure that Blipps offer something valuable or entertaining in its own right. Having said that, we shouldn’t forget that novelty can be valuable – it just needs to be backed up by something more."
MAYBE, Matt Davies, head of social and mobile, ZenithOptimedia
"Until all mobile devices have this kind of software built in, the [coupling of] TV and mobile will always jar. At present, experimentation is the only way to find out what works and how. That in itself is exciting and worthwhile."
YES, Mike Colling, managing director, Mike Colling & Company
"We see a growing consumer desire to interact with TV in real time via second screens. If you can give an appropriate context for the next stage in the consumer’s journey, you will be able to create value for consumer and advertiser."
YES, Clare Mills, associate director, broadcast, Carat
"Second-screening has become commonplace and advertisers need to find the most effective way to become part of this space. However, to maintain interest, advertisers must focus on making it worthwhile for the consumer."