Hotels.com debuts augmented reality campaign

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Hotels.com launched “Virtual Vacation,” an augmented reality microsite that allows consumers to virtually visit 10 US cities. Young & Rubicam Chicago, Hotels.com's agency of record, created the campaign.

The company's goal is both customer acquisition and retention. “We are giving our loyal customers a new and entertaining way to engage with the brand, but we are also exposing the brand to people who may not have used us before,” said Vic Walia, senior director of brand marketing at Hotels.com.

Using a webcam image and augmented reality technology, the campaign enables consumers to virtually walk the streets of New York, Los Angeles or Chicago.

Consumers can create a virtual character using their webcam or smart phone and choose a destination and the type of trip they'd like to take, such as a nature adventure or a shopping tour. Smart, Hotels.com's animated spokesperson, guides visitors through each city.  

“We wanted to take augmented reality and make sure it fit with our brand,” he said. “It is still about booking a hotel.”

Consumers can modify local landmarks, customize street signs and even land a plane at the local airport. They can also insert themselves into a virtual postcard and share it via e-mail or social networking sites.

Hotels.com will remarket to consumers, asking them to sign up for the company's e-mail newsletter and loyalty program, Welcome Rewards. It will also promote the site via e-mail and a national print advertising campaign.

Hotels.com is using the microsite to promote bookings. Consumers can plan real-life trips on the site, or check on deals, local weather and event information.

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