The Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards are hitting stage and screen next week, and, just as it did last year, Vodafone has employed the services of augmented reality (AR) as part of its sponsorship push. But it's gone a bit further in its seventh year as naming rights sponsor with a few innovative mobile additions, like tapping into the second screening phenomenon with Pluk functionality and claiming a New Zealand first with an interactive broadcast set to be screened via its app.
There's still a whiff of gimmickry about AR, and Graham Wright, Vodafone's head of brand engagement and sponsorship, says "marketers haven't really got to grips with it yet". But brands are starting to pay attention to the creative possibilities of merging of the real with the digital. And with the increasing uptake of smartphones, that will likely continue (according to Business Insider, which showcased 11 of the best AR stunts, the market for augmented reality in the US is estimated to reach $350 million in 2014, up from only $6 million in 2008).
It's usually more fun than functional, although Wright says AR has become quite a powerful tool for targeting. But, as consumers expect more—and brands need to do more to stand out—he says added value initiatives like this are just part of "the engagement halo" and, as a brand that has long tried to differentiate itself from its competitors by being cooler than them, using this kind of technology to showcase what can be done on its smartphones aside from txt and voice fits snugly into this approach.
While the AR campaign and things like the Red Room are consumer-focused, he says it was also about doing something that would engage retail staff, who are all once again wearing the t-shirts so customers can hold their phones up to them and make some sweet chest music. It's objectification—but in a good way. And this year it's got a wider reach as it is also the official t-shirt of the music awards, so all the crew and VNZMA staff will be wearing it, and consumers can also purchase it.
As for the event itself, Wright says it will be a dual screen broadcast through the app, which was made by Smudge Apps, is available free on iTunes and Google Play, and is "well into the thousands" in terms of downloads. And those watching on TV will also be able to access behind the scenes content during the ad breaks as part of a partnership with Pluk.
"It's about keeping them entertained and engaged; about doing something relevant," he says.
Four's coverage kicks off at 8:00pm on 1 November with the The Mentos Red Carpet Special. And for the second consecutive year MediaWorkers Ben Boyce and Shannon Ryan are hosting.
Fans are also being encouraged to have their say by voting for their favourite act for The Vodafone People’s Choice Award.
Along with broadcast partner MediaWorks, Westpac, The New Zealand Herald, the Rockshop and ATEED are also on the sponsors list.