It's taken a while, but Snapchat is now moving forward with its new 'Snapchat Scan' ad option, which will enable users to 'scan' a brand logo in order to unlock a unique, branded AR experience.
As reported by AdWeek, Coca Cola and McDonald's will be the first brands to try out the new option - as shown in the example screenshots above, the new Snapchat Scan process will enable users to hover over the brand logos with the Snapchat camera, which will then recognize the logo image and unlock a new experience.
The option is being praised as an innovative use of Snapchat's AR tools, but actually, Snap has been working on the process for some time.
Back in 2016, when Snapchat first launched its Spectacles product, some users discovered that you could scan in the Spectacles logo to unlock an AR experience.
Snap filed a patent around the technology in 2015, with an expanded summary of what may be possible through the option:
"For example, a photograph including an object recognized as a restaurant may result in the user being presented with photo filters that overlay a menu of the restaurant on the photograph. Or a photograph including an object recognized as a food type may result in the user being presented with photo filters that let the user view information e.g., calories, fat content, cost or other information associated with the food type."
And in addition to providing contextual info, the process could also enable businesses to offer discounts and promotions based on the content of an image. For example, in the below patent image, a person who's taken a Snap of a cup of coffee is being offered a discount coupon based on the visual content of that snap.
The patent document actually goes into a lot deeper detail, with a full rundown of how Snapchat could utilize an ad bidding framework for recognized images, creating a whole new advertising eco-system within the app. Essentially, the process would seek to utilize images in the same way that Google ads are triggered by keywords, creating a competitive marketplace for its visual catalog.
So Snap has had this in the works for some time, and as such, it's not entirely clear why it's taken them this long to launch the new option with selected advertisers. But regardless, the implications of the process, which is only in its early stages, could be significant, especially if Snap is also able to get its own augmented reality-enabled smart glasses off the ground at some stage.
There are quite a few dominoes that would need to fall in order to facilitate that next stage for Snap, but this first stage of image-recognition triggered ad tools are a key marker.
This could become a major element for Snap moving forward.