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Lacoste augments reality in Grand Central Station's Vanderbilt Hall

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Lacoste's augmented reality fragrance installation in Grand Central on Sept. 27
Lacoste's augmented reality fragrance installation in Grand Central on Sept. 27
On every day it's not inclement, or I'm not too tired, I make a point of hopping off the subway long before Direct Marketing News' Chelsea offices to stroll instead through Grand Central Terminal and walk the mile and a half from there to work.

Grand Central has long been special to me as my link to New York City when I lived and worked as a newspaper reporter upstate. To me, disembarking a train in that storied terminal, with its whispering-tunnel-type secrets and elaborate astronomical ceiling, always meant one thing: I had arrived.

The station isn't just a hub, or a historical monument; it seems to be filled with as many retail stores as train tracks, and an entire concourse is devoted to dining. An Apple store is going up on an upper level of the main concourse as I write this.

Then there's Vanderbilt Hall -- which always seems to be under transformation, and most times the curtains are pulled, a truly unique advertising experience is revealed.

These days, I always cut a path across the main concourse and through Vanderbilt Hall to the 42nd Street exit just to see what they've got going; it was there that I got to experience Nivea's augmented reality campaign, featuring Rihanna and covered by our own Timothy Peterson.

Today, there was what seemed at first a piece of larger-than-life modern art. In a way, it was. But as an augmented reality installation, it's the kind of art you can feel and interact with. Even become.

I quickly learned that it was also part of a new advertising campaign for Lacoste's new fragrances for men.

“OK, I'll bite,” I told a young man standing in front of a nearby podium with QR-code marked flyers and Lacoste cologne bottles. “What does that thing” -- I gestured to the amorphous and animated display -- “have to do with fragrance?”  

Turns out, it was a big old piece of augmented reality advertising. The hexagonal pattern across the installation was supposed to evoke the scales of the alligator, Lacoste's trademark animal and pocket embellishment, I was told. But it was also a video screen. And the pictures flashing across that surface? They were consumers, seeking what Lacoste referred to as their “20 seconds of fame.”

By using either a QR code or email address printed on the flyer, individuals can go to a special campaign website where they design a pattern using select Lacoste elements and their own images or avatars. The campaign also integrates Facebook, allowing consumers to connect and upload images from their Facebook accounts. The completed video and physical sequence is later flashed across the installation in Grand Central's Vanderbilt Hall for all to see.

Perhaps the most compelling reason to let this augmented reality augment your day? Lacoste notifies all users of the time that their videos will be displayed, so that they can return to Grand Central and watch live. It may not be true fame, but it could feel like it. 

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