Q&A: Gareth Leeding on AR Accelerator – a Bespoke AR Education Program in Singapore

AR is emerging as a key technology for brands to engage with customers in a more meaningful manner. According to Snap, over 200 million people engage with AR on its Snapchat platform every day.

To educate marketers on how to best use AR technology, Snap has partnered with education provider Hyper Island to launch AR Accelerator – a bespoke AR educational program in Singapore.

We recently caught up with Gareth Leeding, Head of Creative Strategy APAC at Snap to learn more about the brand’s new initiative with Hyper Island and how the growth of AR in brand marketing strategies.


Tell us about the AR Accelerator and what people can expect to walk away from it with.

Thank you, Bobby. I am glad to be doing this with you and sharing information on our exclusive AR accelerator program.

The AR Accelerator is a first-of-its-kind educational program by Snapchat in partnership with Hyper Island in Asia. It is a 2-day course that will accelerate participants’ understanding of augmented reality (AR), and its applications. We want participants to be inspired on how to create AR strategies for brands and through the course will be guided on the creation process with Snapchat’s Lens Studio technology.

Lens Studio is a best-in-class desktop application designed for artists and developers to build Augmented Reality experiences. The technology enables the creation of Lenses to be much quicker than you’d imagine. It’s enabled more than 250,000 creators to build over 2.5 million Lenses that have been viewed over 5 trillion times.

We expect students of the AR Accelerator program to walk away with 4 key learnings:

  • Understanding of the power and potential of AR in life and businesses
  • Knowledge of how to develop full-funnel always on AR strategies from a creative and technical standpoint
  • Ability to ideate and prototype in the Hyper Island Way
  • Skills to experiment with the process for developing Face, World and Landmarker Lenses on Lens Studio

The AR Accelerator program will roll out in Singapore beginning September (6-7 September) and November (29-30 November), with a total of 20 spaces available for anyone to sign up at a cost of SGD$2,500.

The course quotes a Deloitte forecast that by 2025, “nearly 75% of the global population and almost all people who use social/communication apps will be frequent AR users.” Can you talk more about that based on your own experience and knowledge of the market?

We center our company, and our app, around AR and the camera because we have long believed this technology can and will do incredible things to enhance our lives and how we learn, explore, shop, make art, and more.

We launched augmented reality (AR) Lenses in 2015 and they’re all about adding a fun, entertaining element to your Snaps — and lowering the barrier to sending a Snap.

Overall, AR usage is surging, Snapchat sees over 6 billion AR Lens plays every day, and we have more than 250 million people engaging with AR every day.

Globally, 92% of Gen Zs are interested in using AR for shopping. And Snapchat is the #1 platform where Gen Z enjoys sharing purchases they love or when shopping.

“The two-day course will accelerate the participants’ understanding of AR, laying a strong foundation on the creation of full-funnel marketing strategies with AR at their core.”

Over the past few years, Snapchat AR has evolved from being just for entertainment and self-expression to having true utility for both consumers and businesses. It’s still fun and funny, but now it can contribute to impactful ROI.

Augmented reality experiences are personal, immersive, and interactive in a way that other brand activations simply can’t be. For brands, this makes it especially impactful because it is the most personalized, immersive way for customers to experience their products.  Simply put, this is no longer about broadcast advertising. Instead of being shouted at, a Snapchatter can be the ad!

AR shopping on Snapchat offers our community the ability to try on and experience products from makeup to sunglasses to sneakers. The pandemic accelerated this behavior, but AR usage shows no signs of slowing down and it’s leading to true digital transformation.

Retailers are excited about the potential for augmented reality to reduce returns in the future, which is a huge benefit in terms of cost savings, but also in terms of the environment.

Some might say that two days could be a bit short to gain actionable AR skills. How do you respond to that and what kind of attendees is the course aimed at?

Targeted at digital creatives, marketers and brand managers who are looking to improve their AR knowledge and develop as digital practitioners, the two-day course will accelerate the participants’ understanding of AR, laying a strong foundation on the creation of full-funnel marketing strategies with AR at their core.

We will begin the course by looking into the possibilities of AR, then learn and practice techniques to generate creative augmented reality ideas and get hands-on prototyping. Following this, we’ll dive into how the technology works, and how to develop augmented reality products, given their limitations and possibilities from a technical standpoint.

Hyper Island Learning Experiences are highly interactive and engaging, where participants try things by themselves and work together in a small group setting. Through the two-day program, there will be lots of opportunities for participants to ask questions and engage with the facilitators, helping attendees hone transferable skills that can be directly applied to their own workplace and career.

According to eMarketer, Snapchat’s user base in the Asia-Pacific grew almost 70% in 2021, and this year, nearly 3 out of 10 Snapchat users will be in APAC. What’s driving this growth in this increasingly competitive field?

Snapchat has been built around the camera to give people a way to express themselves and build real connections with their friends. We realized that the camera, which was once a tool for documenting important moments, could become a powerful platform for self-expression and visual communication.

As smartphone and camera adoption increases in Asia, Snapchat differentiates itself by opening directly to the camera instead of a feed of content. It is centered around communicating with a close network of people you actually know in real life, rather than a town square where anyone has the right to distribute anything to anyone. As a result, 95% of Snapchatters say that the app makes them feel happy, more than any other services tested.

A lot of the growth is taking place in India. What other markets do you expect to see strong growth this year?

Every market is unique in its own ways. APAC is a growing market for Snap, where businesses in the region aim to reach our highly engaged community in other global markets through advertising on Snapchat.

We are actively expanding in Singapore, Japan, and South Korea and also amping up our localized activities such as launching Lenses for cultural moments and Lens Studio workshops. In 2021, over 11,000 students were trained via the Lens Studio workshops to teach AR to students from different schools and colleges across SEA.

What are some of the coolest uses of AR that you have seen recently that resonated the most with you personally? (Share links please)

The first thing that comes to mind is the partnership with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation to use AR to protect the world’s largest reef system. This partnership aimed to raise awareness, drive action and help the Foundation achieve its goal of planting a million corals in 2021.

The campaign harnessed the power of Snapchat’s camera, encouraging millions of users globally to share a first-of-its-kind environmental pledge using AR. Snapchatters around the world could also take a pledge via an AR Face + World Lens, as well as a unique Water Segmentation Lens. This campaign took the Foundation one step closer to reaching its 2030 vision of planting 10 million heat-tolerant corals on the Reef.

I also want to highlight the use cases of AR in shopping. For example, using Snap AR, shoppers can visualize, try on, and experience products before buying them — which increase conversions and reduce returns, benefiting both shoppers and businesses alike.

Lastly, another cool example is the use of AR Lenses to teach American Sign Language (ASL) to users, where the AR Lens taught users to finger spell their name and practice the ASL alphabets. There is also a mix of edutainment, where users can play games through the Lens to test their ASL knowledge.

These are just some of the many examples of how Snap is constantly working towards building a more inclusive and engaged community with our foray into AR and building digital literacy.

You can learn more about AR Accelerator here.


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