Snap Scales Up its Geo-Local AR Ambitions

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As you may or may not have seen, Snap last week launched Custom Landmarkers. For those unfamiliar, Landmarkers are an existing Snapchat style of AR lenses that are anchored to physical-world waypoints. They bring to life famous landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Pyrmid of Giza, and Flatiron Building.

Now, Custom Landmarkers essentially open up and crowdsource the program so that anyone can build one. This takes the 30 or so Landmarkers that Snap has created in-house and extends their potential to the scale of the inhabitable earth. With that will come all kinds of new use cases that creators run with.

This notably follows Snap’s longstanding AR lens playbook. It started with a handful of in-house lenses like rainbow vomit and dog ears, before opening up the Lens Studio platform to creators everywhere. And it seems to be working, given that Snap now gets 6 billion daily lens plays. Could geo-local AR be next?

Snap Doubles Down on Immersive Ads

Real-World Metaverse

Snap’s new Custom Landmarkers are available in the latest update to Lens Studio, which is Snap’s AR creation platform. They’ll involve a process for developers and lens creators to scan a given location with their smartphone, then create a lens that’s endemic to that place and digitally anchored to it.

The physical scanning happens for a few reasons. It helps developers create lenses that integrate contextually and dimensionally with a given place. It could also serve as a trigger for future lens activation. In other words, Snap is assembling location-based spatial mapping data to understand the world computationally.

But in the nearer term, Snap is going with a more familiar activation trigger: QR codes. Specifically, Custom landmarkers are activated through Snapcodes that creators generate when they build the Landmarker itself. They can then plant that code at the location as a call-to-action for passers-by to scan the code.

This marker-based approach is important in the near term, as consumers still need that nudge. Furthermore, QR codes are a familiar medium with which users are comfortable – especially Snapcodes within the Snapchat community. That makes them a sort of physical-media bridge to a “real-world metaverse.”

Boiling this down to a real-life example, a theme park or tourist attraction could create Landmarkers around their grounds and plant Snapcodes accordingly. These can both launch the intended lens and serve as a sort of nudge or reminder for users to pull out their phones and fire up Snapchat to see something cool.

How Will the Metavearth Materialize?


What other use cases could develop? Like the broader lens universe, the results will be both practical and whimsical. BLNK founder and creative director Michael Nicoll tells me he’s been working with Custom Landmarkers to create geo-anchored artistic fare around L.A. – think virtual street art with an interactive kick.

But Nicoll’s goal is to bring this flavor of lenses to his entertainment and brand clients. There, it could be the latest format that adds new dimension to the marketing mix. This could include consumer brands to recording artists to sports franchises that plant lens activations outside venues like Arena.

It also brings to mind multi-location players: the Shake Shacks and Great Clips of the world can bring their brand campaigns to the last mile. For the same reason — but later in the adoption cycle — the long-tail SMB segment could jump on board. They could spotlight their unique personas through storefront-anchored Landmarkers.

Snap is meanwhile making moves to appeal to non-techy creators with ongoing UX evolutions to Lens Studio. The platform continues to get easier and easier to use in terms of an object-oriented low-code interface for lens creation. That’s a key component for SMBs, gating any of the above from happening at scale.

On the bright side, the timing could be right for Landmarkers given the advertising world’s flux. The combination of a pandemic and privacy reform (e.g. Apple’s ATT) has forced advertisers of all sizes to get smart on new alternatives. Geo-local AR – and Custom Landmarkers as a subset – could be propelled by those tailwinds.

Mike Boland has been a tech & media analyst for the past two decades, specifically covering mobile, local, and emerging technologies. He has written for Street Fight since 2011. More can be seen at