Augmented reality iPhone app lets people take a picture with Esquire’s sexiest woman alive

[From The New York Times; more information and a 1:13 video are available here]

Appearing Virtually at a Store Near You …

Published: January 18, 2011

Sexy may not be the first word that comes to mind to describe Barnes & Noble, but the sex appeal of the bookseller rose considerably this week among some readers of Esquire magazine.

Beginning Tuesday, Brooklyn Decker, who was voted the sexiest woman alive by Esquire readers recently and is featured on the cover of its February issue, began appearing at the stores to pose for photographs with fans.

Ms. Decker is not setting foot in the actual stores, but is appearing virtually through a novel use of GPS technology with broad marketing potential. Using an iPhone with a special app, visitors to the stores can select from among several poses by Ms. Decker, who then appears in the center of the viewfinder and is superimposed wherever the smartphone is pointed.

Participants can pose beside her likeness, and some poses — like Ms. Decker blowing a kiss to her side — seem incomplete without an object of ardor in the frame. Users are prompted with the option of posting the images to Facebook or e-mailing them to friends.

Ms. Decker will be able to be viewed in more than 700 Barnes & Noble locations.

GoldRun, the fledgling New York agency that developed the application, can create GPS zones as large as 500 feet in diameter for such promotions, but in Barnes & Noble, the enabled area is only about 150 feet, pinpointing the magazine section — where, of course, Esquire is sold.

Although it is not paying for the campaign, Barnes & Noble is helping to promote it through its Web site and through e-mail messages to customers.

“We’re hoping it will drive traffic to their stores and it will benefit both of us,” said David Granger, editor in chief of Esquire. Mr. Granger noted that the promotion involved an emerging technology that was being used to promote a very simple pleasure: thumbing through a magazine in a bricks-and-mortar store.

“To my mind, it’s a really cool technology to make use of, but I hope the end result is that people buy the print magazine,” Mr. Granger said.

Unlike virtual reality, which is entirely simulated, the term for the what’s being orchestrated by GoldRun is augmented reality — placing virtual elements into real-world settings in real time.

Using the GPS capability of smartphones, GoldRun creates promotions that are site-specific through the use of geotagging — identifying locations through their latitude and longitude.

In early November, H&M, the clothing chain, directed iPhone users to the sidewalks near any of its 10 Manhattan locations. There, while using the GoldRun app, participants could see virtual versions of H&M clothes, and then position the clothes over others who were posing, so they appeared to be modeling them. After taking the photographs, users were asked if they wanted to share them on Facebook, and were given digital coupons toward purchases.

In another application, Airwalk, the sneaker brand, directed consumers to what it called “invisible popup stores” in Washington Square Park in Manhattan and Venice Beach in California, both popular sites for skateboarding. There, users who photographed virtual versions of sneakers could purchase one of just 300 pairs of a limited-edition skate shoe, the Jim.

“This allows us to connect the brand with the user at the time and the place where it makes the most sense,” said Shai Rao, vice president of creative at GoldRun. “It’s content delivered to you that meets you at the pace and pattern of your life.”

The promotion, while using the GoldRun app, was conceived by Y&R, New York, part of the Young & Rubicam Brands division of WPP.

GoldRun’s free iPhone app was introduced on Nov. 1. An Android version of the application is scheduled to be released by March.

A second Esquire promotion, meanwhile, is concurrent with its Brooklyn Decker effort, with both running through Feb. 28.

Esquire is calling its February edition “The Re-engineering Issue,” and as part of that theme it commissioned artists in several mediums to create new interpretations of the Esquire logo. One, from Tronic Studio, a digital media agency co-founded by Vivian Rosenthal, who is also the chief executive of GoldRun, envisions the letters in the logo as futuristic metal sculptural forms.

Beginning Tuesday, in seven United States cities including New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, all seven letters will be geotagged, appearing virtually in 49 locations in all. Because this is a scavenger hunt, the locations are undisclosed, so one would, for example, turn on the GoldRun application while in Grand Central Station to see if any letters appear.

Participants who find logo letters and submit photos of them will be entered to win prizes including an iPad.

At Barnes & Noble, meanwhile, GoldRun has taken steps to reduce the possibility that some may post photos of suggestive poses with Ms. Decker, which may be offensive to her and her husband, Andy Roddick, the tennis player.

To discourage that, in all of Ms. Decker’s poses she is fixed in the foreground, so poses will not allow depictions of touching her. Also, Mr. Granger, the Esquire editor said, “they’re all very tame photos” where Ms. Decker, who first gained prominence as a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model, is clad in leggings and a sleeveless blouse.

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