The Biggest Mistakes AR Lens Creators Make and How to Fix Them
Jason Steinberg, Managing Partner, Pretty Big Monster

Every couple of months, an Augmented Reality lens built for Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok goes truly viral, becoming a meme on all social media platforms and even expanding its reach with attention from celebrities and talk show hosts.

And alongside those highly visible, viral moments, there are a wide variety of creative lenses being used by millions of people every day. Some of these AR executions are made by the platforms themselves, some are made by brands, and some are made by regular users with an idea and a flair for creativity.

Augmented Reality Lens Creation AR DesignIn fact, there are over 4 million unique AR experiences on these platforms, ranging from the slick and technical, to the naive and charming—and everywhere in between.

The fact that all lens creators, from amateur to professional, have essentially the same access and toolsets to get their lens seen and used makes many think that lenses are easy to create, but it takes a unique approach to create one that audiences will use and share.

While it takes creativity and a bit of luck to catch lightning in a bottle for a campaign to go viral, there are some common mistakes that creators can avoid to increase that likelihood.

Here are the biggest mistakes AR creators make and how to fix them.

Heavy-Handed Branding
Companies want their brand messaging front and center, to a point that it can threaten to overshadow the actual experience.

How to fix it: A simple “brought to you by” branding message correctly assigns credit without overwhelming audiences and making them feel like it’s just a marketing experience.

Mistaking “Big” for “Meaningful”
We have found that “larger than life” concepts fail more than they succeed, because they mistake spectacle for cleverness. Lens makers should remain grounded in providing a fun or compelling experience, which often can be incredibly simple.

How to fix it: A more effective experience is one that is smart, on-brand, and, most importantly, makes the user the hero. Give your audience an experience they want to share, not one that you want shared.

Overcomplicating the Experience
Often found in coordination with the above mistake, AR experiences will likely fail if they require a user to take too many steps to activate.

How to fix it: Develop as few steps as possible to launch and use the experience. If there are too many steps, or they require more than a line or two of instructions, users will opt out of the experience before actually using it.

Overlooking the Basics
It’s a fallacy to assume a great execution will find an audience and go viral. Early adopters can often make or break a lens, and they are besieged by countless other options.

Developers that focus all their attention on the experience, but don’t optimize the simple things that aid in discovery—such as preview videos, titles, tags, and other building blocks—are bound to stay hidden. There’s an art to making an AR experience stand out from the clutter without relying on expensive paid media.

How to fix it: The work for visibility begins when a lens is submitted. Getting the title right is job #1. Examples of punchy titles of breakout lenses include Puking Rainbow, Scoob Selfie, Dancing Hotdog, and Puppy Love. Some of the most successful lenses follow a simple formula: Descriptor + Key Element = Title.Selfie with Scoob

The 10-second preview video is often the first impression a user will have of your lens, so you must make those moments count. Focus on the most meaningful elements, and capture the compelling moment.

Failing to Promote
While the lens will show up on your profile, it’s not the only way to drive discovery. A robust promotional strategy to highlight the lens will ensure it reaches a larger audience.

How to fix it: On each platform, you can create a story: a heavily-read feature and the main interest for many. When you post a story featuring your AR filter on Instagram, you can add a ‘Try It’ button so viewers can easily access the experience. You also should create a dedicated post to tell people about your AR effect and where to find it. Consider posting a few times about your effect to ensure your followers have the best chance to learn about the lens. In your post, showcase the lens, tell users where to find it and don’t forget the call to action. If your campaign includes traditional media such as print, TV/video or OOH, be sure to include a QR or Snap code in those materials. Every touchpoint is an opportunity to promote the lens, use them all.


Not Learning From Previous Campaigns
Sometimes great activations fail, and less impressive ones succeed. Audiences can be fickle, tastes can change, and the timing can be off.

How to fix it: Be sure to capture tracking metrics from native platforms and putting them into a spreadsheet or dashboard. You’ll want to break down the raw metrics into common numbers that can be shared across platforms, campaigns, and lenses. Armed with benchmarks as reference points, you’ll be able to optimize your approach. Which types of lenses generate the most shares? Does a male or female in the preview impact open rates? While it’s difficult to isolate variables with scientific certainty, you’ll be able to get a good feel for what’s working and what’s not.

Failing to Connect Experiences on Multiple Platforms
Not everyone is on every platform, so many brands develop experiences for multiple services. But Instagram users, for example, might not put in the time to see if a Snap lens execution is also on their platform.

How to fix it: If your campaign spans multiple platforms, such as Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, and even Web AR, then it can be valuable to create a single destination web page where users can be directed to their platform of choice. Your promotional efforts can then focus on getting users to that page—for example, sharing the page on Twitter, or using QR codes to bring it up instantly on mobile phones—and avoid the fragmentation of promoting each execution separately.

Of course, none of the above matters if you don’t have a fun, creative idea that resonates with your audience. Above all else, create great experiences.

With the above tips in mind, hopefully you’ll have an opportunity to create plenty of memorable moments with your audiences in AR. There’s nothing quite like it.


Jason Steinberg is Managing Partner at Pretty Big Monster.  Twitter: @PrettyBigMnstr, @jsteinberg9000. Facebook: PrettyBigMonster