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Q&A: GQ augments reality in its latest issue

Almost three years ago Esquire brought actor Robert Downey Jr. to life on the printed page using augmented reality technology. Since then, more magazines and even an occasional newspaper, like the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, have applied the interactive technology to an issue. Just last month, Maxim magazine announced it would debut its September issue using augmented reality to animate the front cover. GQ magazine also got into the augmented reality game this month using a new app called GQ Live. Although it may seem like a gimmick to some, advertisers appear to be attracted by the visual life the technology gives to the stillness of print in an age where the media is dominated by video. GQ publisher and vice president Chris Mitchell spoke with inVocus about GQ’s foray into augmented reality and how they’re something of a pioneer.

Q: Why did the idea of incorporating an augmented reality app appeal to GQ?

Chris Mitchell (CM): We wanted something to help generate even more buzz around our hugely popular September “NFL Kick-Off” issue. And men’s magazine content has been one of the fastest growing mobile consumption categories, so we knew this would appeal to both GQ readers and our advertisers.

Q: What are its benefits to the magazine? To the readers?

CM: This brand-new kind of image-recognition technology brings the magazine to life, in the truest sense. And it allows GQ readers to access behind-the-scenes video from photo shoots, shop directly from ads, view 3D renderings of products, watch musical performances, and much more – all for free.

Q: Does it appeal to advertisers?

CM: Definitely. Combining print and mobile allows advertisers to offer a more sustained engagement with readers. And with GQ LIVE we helped advertisers create highly personalized and interactive campaigns that are simple for readers to engage with. With Aurasma’s technology, readers must only place their smartphone on or near the ad to activate – no need to take a picture or mess with QR Codes, which can compromise the quality of a brand’s creative. Advertisers have been so pleased with the experience that some have already decided to use it again in the October issue.

Q: How has the app been received by your audience?

CM: Initial results indicate that readers are very excited. The September issue just hit newsstands this week and we’ve already received more than 5,000 GQ LIVE app downloads (for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and Android devices).

Q: How does GQ Live! place GQ on the cutting edge of technology?

CM: GQ Live is truly an industry first. Other magazines have attempted combining print and digital using augmented reality, but not at this scale and not at this level of customization. GQ worked with every advertiser individually to determine what kind of execution worked best with their brand, and the result is a fully LIVE issue.

–Katrina M. Mendolera

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