Are you paying attention? How AR is proving that immersion counts


Research finds Snapchat is most immersive media platform among TV, film, music, gaming and sports

In a world where consumers are craving a deeper connection with the brands they buy from, advertisers are always seeking new and better ways to cut through the noise and engage with their audience on a deeper level. 

Augmented reality has been one of the breakthrough innovations in ad formats in recent years, with an increasing number of big brands adding AR to their marketing campaigns, from Ikea to Samsung and Coca Cola to Gucci.

What draws advertisers to the format is how immersive it is in comparison to more traditional advertising formats, and how it makes brands a part of their audience’s conversations. While that’s clear to anyone who has ever used AR, traditional ad measurement techniques simply aren’t able to showcase that in a tangible way, to encourage those brands yet to jump on board.

As leaders in the AR ad space, Snapchat wants to change that. In partnership with market research agency Alter Agents, it has looked into new ways of measuring this enhanced level of immersion, so that brands can better understand the possibilities of AR in their campaigns.

“We’ve always felt that traditional research techniques just miss the true understanding of what AR does to an individual’s psyche, in terms of their warmness to a brand and the way that they pay attention to the creative,” says Andy Pang, Snap’s head of international market science.

“So that’s what we set out to do, to lead the understanding of how this medium truly works through passive measurement and neuroscience.” 

The international multicell study that Snap commissioned looked to understand what subconscious effects take place when people engage with AR content within the Snapchat app, in comparison with other content and platforms. 

It recruited participants to take part in virtual, individual research sessions, during which they were asked to use specific media platforms and watch online videos in a randomised order. 

During the session, their level of immersion was calculated by measuring their heart rate variation on a smart watch. This was paired with historical data from a neuroscience platform – fittingly named Immersion – which uses historical data to map how changes in heart rate correlate to the brain’s engagement with a stimulus.

This is then translated into an “Immersion Index”, which rates a person’s level of immersion on a scale of 0 to 100. 

“When we talk about ‘immersion,’  we’re referring to a neurological state based on a person’s relative level of attention and emotional connection.” says Pang. “When people are highly immersed, they are paying attention, emotionally engaged, and actively committing information to memory. To put it differently, they are ‘in the zone,’ and the experience is resonating with them on a fundamental level — to the point it can predict future behaviour.”

The study’s results show that, across the board, AR experiences are more likely to grab the attention of users when compared with more traditional formats. Up against more than 350 experiences across TV, film, music, gaming and sports, AR delivered a higher overall Immersion Index of 56 compared to 45. 

But that’s not all. When broken down further by platform, the results show that Snapchat was the most immersive of all platforms offering AR experiences in their camera, with an Immersion Index of 61 to 55.

“Because we know that people who have a more immersive experience with a piece of content are more likely to recall and take action on it later, AR experiences are a prime opportunity for marketers and advertisers to target audiences, and this study proves they’re at their very best on Snapchat,” says Pang.

As for how this compares to more traditional media, the study also found that, on average, branded AR experiences maintain higher attention throughout the time that users interact with them, compared with the peaks and troughs seen in traditional advertising spaces. 

“The fascinating thing is that [the]high engagement we’re seeing in AR doesn’t falter like it does in other mediums and remains heightened throughout,” says Pang. “It means that every second is more impactful, and that’s certainly what advertisers want. They want their brands to be at a point where people are immersed and engaged, so they commit the brand to memory and have it at the front of their mind at point of purchase. And it’s not just about awareness, it’s about changing or reinforcing perception of a brand too, so what it stands for, and why you would consider it over something else.”

There’s evidence of this in further research by Nielsen. When looking at the Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) and Beauty industries in the US, Snapchat offered double the return on investment when compared to other channels. 

In addition, when evaluating the advertisers in the Personal Care and Beauty category specifically, Snapchat Lenses were found to be one of the most effective forms of advertising measured, offering six times greater effectiveness than TV.

“For a long time, I think there has been a misconception that AR can’t deliver ROI, but this research shows that is absolutely not the case,” says Pang. “Not only is it engaging audiences better than other forms of advertising, it is driving results from a sales perspective too. 

“It proves that AR is the future of marketing. And if you haven’t considered it before, now is the time to pay attention.”

This article first appeared in

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