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Bill DowVice President, Media Product ManagementWeather Services International
Most marketers are still treading carefully around augmented reality. But as TV networks start working the technology into their programming, brands have the chance to experiment with it in a tried-and-true broadcast setting. Bill Dow, vice president of media product management at Weather Services International, told eMarketer’s Maria Minsker how The Weather Company’s recently updated augmented reality tool, Max Reality, enhances its programming and how marketers and advertisers in general can take advantage of augmented reality on TV.
eMarketer: Can you share an example of what Max Reality can do in a broadcast setting?
Bill Dow: Consider this scenario. A meteorologist starts out with a touchscreen monitor in the background. Eventually, an augmented reality representation of Denver, Colorado, comes into view and viewers can see snowflakes falling. The meteorologist is behind the snow and the city—both are part of the augmented reality object, while the meteorologist is still in a physical set. This year, we also added 3-D radar and enhanced Max Reality so that it can support virtual sets. The monitors, the floor and everything that’s part of the presentation can now be computer generated.
eMarketer: What are the benefits of creating a virtual set?
Dow: With a virtual set capability, broadcasters can create the illusion of a more expansive weather center. The idea is to grab more of the audience, particularly millennials who tend to gravitate toward rich, 3-D graphics and immersive experiences like virtual reality. Based on our research, 54% of viewers say they would tune in longer if they knew there would be a 5-minute virtual reality segment.
eMarketer: What implications does this technology have for marketing and advertising?
Dow: There is plenty of opportunity. For example, during a segment about driving through flooding conditions, an augmented reality car drives onto the set with an AutoZone decal on it. There’s a reason that’s in there. When situations are relevant to particular advertisers, as it is in this scenario, there’s an opportunity for the station to drive additional revenue by attracting brands to use the technology.
eMarketer: What are some other ways that marketers and advertisers could leverage this augmented reality technology?
Dow: The AutoZone car is an example of product placement, but there are also opportunities for sponsorships within each individual show. For example, an advertiser could sponsor an entire augmented reality or virtual-based segment [based on its context].
eMarketer: How does Max Reality fit into existing technology that broadcasters rely on?
Dow: We have a platform called Max Ecosystem to help meteorologists develop content for mobile, web and social channels. Every time we add a product to this platform, we integrate it into their workflow. When we started thinking about implementing an augmented reality solution a year ago, we wanted to make sure that we implemented it into this workflow, the Max Ecosystem, in a seamless way.
eMarketer: How do you foresee augmented reality technology evolving over the next few years?
Dow: I expect to see more interactivity—the ability to touch and move objects, for example. [We’ll continue] trying to drill down how presenters can interact with graphical objects that have been generated in more interesting and meaningful ways to better tell the weather or the traffic story.
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