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A handful of brands are hoping to get a leg up on their mobile presence with augmented reality apps that interact with objects and advertisements. U.K.-based online clothing retailer ASOS, for example, has an app that leads users to a link to purchase an item when they scan the items in the ASOS Magazine on their phone.  A scan of the Heinz ketchup logo with augmented reality app Blippar will prompt a downloadable recipe book.


Beauty brands have been especially keen on connecting the digital with the physical. L’Oreal-owned Maybelline works with Blippar to superimpose different polish shades on pictures of users’ hands. A Bobbi Brown smoky-eye makeup tutorial plays each time the Blippar app focuses on actress Katie Holmes’s eye in a print ad.


Aside from being an interesting idea, interactive apps add more hassle than value. Bobbi Brown’s video tutorial, for example, would be just as informative without the pre-requisite to scan a picture of Holmes’ eye. L’Oreal’s interactive app would be a useful tool for testing polishes on the go, except customers must activate it with scanning a specific Maybelline print ad. Underdeveloped technology leads to problems too. The ASOS Scan to Shop app was given a dismal two-star review because of frequent crashes.


A testament to the possibility of creative apps without the cumbersome augmented reality element is OPI’s Try It On. Instead of taking a picture of their hand as they do for the Maybelline app, consumers create a virtual hand similar to their own by adjusting skin color and nail length.


Not pushing Try it On into the augmented reality realm hasn’t hurt OPI’s user-generated buzz. With 28,359 followers, OPI has the most Instagram mentions of all the beauty brands in our 2013 Digital IQ IndexÒ: Beauty.


Once augmented reality technology improves, these types of ads could nudge the mainstream to embrace mobile commerce. As of now, they might be ahead of their time.

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