Hotels.com's Vic Walia on Making Augmented Reality Campaigns Both Entertaining and Strategic
For Hotels.com, augmented reality (the process by which computer-generated imagery is combined with a user's real world background to provide a more rich, interactive experience) itself is not a campaign. Rather, it's another marketing tool—albeit, a cool one—the travel company can use to better connect with prospects and customers.
Hotels.com, an operating company of Expedia and which provides lodging at more than 85,000 properties worldwide, rolled out a multichannel campaign last week that centers around an augmented reality (AR) microsite, VirtualVacay.com. Dubbed Virtual Vacation, the campaign takes site visitors on virtual tours through 10 popular U.S. travel destinations: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington D.C., Las Vegas, San Francisco, New Orleans, Denver, San Diego and Seattle. By printing out a form with the "marker" from the microsite, using one of the print ads featuring the marker that are running in national newspapers and magazines, or visiting a special URL on their smart phones where this image also is displayed, consumers can hold the glyph up to their webcams and use their microphones to navigate 3-D versions of these major cities.
The AR experience offers local weather, events schedules and special deals for these top destinations, provided by media partners Weather.com and Metromix.com. In addition, users can interact with the virtual cities by modifying local landmarks, customizing street signs, landing a plane at the city's airport and taking pictures of themselves that are incorporated into travel pic-style digital postcards to be shared with friends and family via the users' social networking accounts.
According to Vic Walia, Hotels.com's senior director brand marketing, Virtual Vacation is an "integrated, 360-degree marketing approach," combining print, mobile, social media, e-mail and website media with AR and video to support a robust travel-inspired experience.
"Consumers are looking for as much information as they need in order to make that [hotel] booking, whether it's information around things to do in the destination or places to stay. Whatever information we provide them, we're just thinking up new ways to do that," says Walia.