How marketers are planning to use the new customisable AR filters on Instagram

Instagram Stories has expanded the use of its customisable augmented reality (AR) effects, which was earlier in the year made available on the platform exclusively to its community of Spark AR creators, to the rest of its audience. The new offering will come as an addition to what is already available under its “effects gallery” on the platform.

According to Facebook, prior to opening up the platform to users across the globe, more than one billion users had already signed up to use the customisable AR effects and filters powered by Spark AR on its platform as well as sister brands Instagram, Messenger and Portal.

In a statement to Marketing, a spokesperson said this is “strictly an organic experience” and are no customisable AR ads on Instagram Stories at this time. With the opening of the platform, the social media giant aims for users to create more ways to interact with people and brands on Instagram.

Speaking on the new offering, Juliana Chua, general manager marketing, Pavilion KL said the new customisable AR effects will certainly ensure more entertaining engagement between brands and audiences given”likes” no longer hold much brand value.

“This will be good for us. With this feature, consumers can create AR effects that are customised to a marketer’s brand – resulting in consumers creating more content for me,” she said.  She added that with the new feature, more user generated content will also be created with added variation.

Instead of marketing teams taking a long time to create content, consumers can create it for us. More importantly, the content is created based on what our target audiences like because they know best.

According to Chua, in this day and age, brands need to learn how to let consumers curate content. “Right now, consumers’ interests and desires are so diverse, it’s no longer viable to just use one type of content for all consumers across platforms,” she said.

Apart from shopping malls such as Pavilion, she was of the view that companies such as luxury brands and mass consumer brands with strict brand guidelines will be able to benefit from this AR effects. Since luxury brands sometimes have limitations and are not always able to create customised content at speed, this form of user generated content could also be utilised by them.

“As for mass consumer brands, they target a huge population and hence, it is very hard to customise content. So, it would be easier to let their own fans customise the content and reach out to the wider audience,” she added.

Getting in with the youths 

Joyce Tan, senior director of marketing and innovation at Pizza Hut Singapore also had a positive view of the offering given its ability to resonate with the younger consumers – a segment she is keen on gaining prominence with.

“AR effects allows creatives to find new ways of tying the brand and consumers,” she said.

Agreeing with Tan, Merisant’s regional marketing director, Asia Pacific, Shreyas Subbaraya who previously worked with P&G said Instagram AR filters from select creators have been gaining popularity since late last year, and is “exciting” to let anyone create more such effects. He also added that this will enable brands in driving consideration among Millennial and GenZ audiences and be a part of popular conversation.

Eugene Lee, marketing director of McDonald’s Malaysia said that his team has already been utilising the offering on the Facebook Stories platform – starting with the Portuguese Chicken Burger promotion.

“We were the first company in Malaysia (according to Facebook) to adopt the technology, and hack it to create an AR game for the public,” he said. He added that the campaign drove one of the highest engaged consumer activation to date on digital, with over 70,000 users registering and 10,000+ active daily players.

These were numbers we had never seen before, proving that being able to adopt new tech and at the same time be relevant to consumers drives real consumer engagement.

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Agency take

According to Pavilion’s Chua, the possible downside to allowing consumers to build their own effects for brands to use could result on a hit on the agencies. She added that digital media agencies will now need to figure out how their role evolves. “These agencies will have to find out if they are going to be the leader in telling consumers how to create AR effects, or create the filters for the brands themselves so consumers can use them,” Chua said.

Nonetheless, James Chua, founder and managing director of GERMS told Marketing, that such a feature is a clear opportunity for “engagement hungry” marketers to harness and possibly monetise. But marketers would need to ensure that the adoption is done in a proper manner to drive high engagement levels and grow brand and product awareness.

On the view of the offering alone, he said Snapchat clearly in competition with Instagram over similar features and target segment, Chua said that the latter is playing catch-up to retain and/or regain users.

(Read more: Why brands should pay attention to Snapchat’s gender swap filter)

“With the feature doing a lot of good for Snapchat’s resurgence in app downloads, Instagram definitely wants to ensure it doesn’t lose engagement with the base that is straddling between the two platforms. So it is clearly another catch-up move to retain or regain users. As for those that are only on Instagram, it clearly will help to drive further engagements,” he added.

Meanwhile, Prantik Mazumdar, managing partner at Happy Marketer, a Merkle Company said the creative power and empowerment in Instagram users is likely to create more ad inventory for the platform. Users are able to custom create their own effects for posts and stories, which will then be shared by many, eventually leading to more advertising revenue for Instagram.

According to Mazumdar however, Instagram has often followed and copied Snapchat’s innovative products but has been “better and quicker” in monetising it by leveraging the access it has to Facebook’s resources.