Facebook and Snapchat have opened the door for AR advertising

In 2017, social media gifted us with a virtually dancing hot dog, sent to brighten even the most mundane Snapchat. In 2018, brands now have a chance to make their own virtual mark with new AR opportunities across platforms. Most recently, Facebook and Snapchat have released tools to make your own AR Lenses (or ‘filters’), allowing you to create and place 3D objects into a real-world setting and record a video to share on social media.

Why AR?

AR offers new ways for people to engage with brands and show their appreciation. Advertisers have long looked for opportunities to get people excited about sharing branded content to their friends, hoping to make their ads go viral. AR scenes and selfies allow people to express themselves and create things that they innately want to share. So, it’s a good way to promote your brand while at the same giving people something fun that they want to use.

Enabling publishers to produce content for these social networks means that they can take advantage of the reach of social platforms without having to take on the high cost of developing a native AR app, or the challenge of promoting it in a crowded marketplace. For someone with the requisite skills, 3D content can be authored in as little as a few hours.

Snapchat Lens Studio (left) and Facebook AR Studio (right) both feature a similar interface.

How AR works on social

Both Facebook and Snapchat offer the ability to author 3D objects that users can place within the world and both support common 3D model formats such as FBX and OBJ. Typically, these 3D models would be created in a professional modeling program and imported into AR studio or Lens Studio. Once imported, users can determine how they will be anchored to the world and scripts can be added to trigger effects based on user actions. Snapchat is the only platform that supports animated 3D objects at this time.

Models should be kept simple so that they render quickly on mobile devices. Both platforms also support adding 2D (image) objects if 3D modeling is not an option (for example, a 2D cartoon character or flat background scenery that still stays anchored to the real world). Interestingly, while Facebook has expanded into offering Face filters, Snapchat still does not, probably because Snapchat’s offerings are a bit more complex than Facebook’s. Currently, Facebook’s AR studio supports face-based 3D models, and seems to work best with things like hats and masks (i.e., rigid objects that get added to your head).

When you’re ready to test your Lens, both tools offer the ability to quickly try it out on your phone. Facebook has a special app you must install, and Snapchat lets you try it out right in the Snapchat app.

How to submit your AR lens once it’s ready

Lenses are subject to submission and approval on both platforms, and must adhere to each platforms Terms of Service (Facebook’s can be found here, and Snapchat’s here). According to Facebook, the process takes about 1–3 days.

Lenses can be limited to specific geographic areas or time periods, which can be useful if you are running a limited promotion. Also, be prepared to provide a memorable icon for your lens, so people can find it. Facebook also requires that you provide a demo video of your filter in action.

Ways to promote your AR lens to the world

The best way to get the word out about your filter on Facebook is by posting about it on your page. Generate some excitement by showing your filter in action — record and post a video using the final product, or promote your filter-adorned posts by boosting them or using Snap ads.

Additionally, each platform provides you with a direct way to send users to your AR content: Facebook allows you to create a unique link directly to your lens, and Snapchat allows you to send it via Snapcode.

Now that the tools are out in the wild, it’s up to us to see what kinds of fun things we can do with the technology. The next year should bring a lot of creative uses for AR.