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YouTube’s AR ads let you try on virtual makeup alongside beauty vloggers

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Try before you buy

MAC Cosmetics will be one of the first brands to use the new feature.
Image: MAC Cosmetics / YouTube

Starting this summer, Google will let users experiment with augmented reality makeup in YouTube. The idea is to use the experience like an interactive ad; you watch a beauty vlogger talking about a specific brand of cosmetic, and a new “Virtual try on” feature will show you how you could look while wearing the product. MAC Cosmetics is the first brand to launch an AR Beauty Try-On campaign.

Google is positioning the new feature as a way of getting more of people’s attention compared to a non-interactive video ad. The company says that during its testing it found 30 percent of people activated the AR experience, and spent an average of 80 seconds trying on virtual lipstick. However, it’s unclear how much of this attention is due to the technology’s novelty.

The functionality lets you see how a specific shade of lipstick could look on you.
Image: Google

Google isn’t the only tech company to have tried using AR for advertising. Both Facebook and Snapchat experimented with the functionality last year, and the glasses company Warby Parker has an app which overlays its glasses onto your face. However, YouTube has the advantage of having a massive beauty vlogging community, which serves viewers with a pre-existing interest in the products being shown.

The AR feature is currently in alpha, and will eventually be available to other brands through YouTube’s FameBit “influencer marketing platform.