Unilever has acquired a “six-figure” stake in Snatch, a new augmented reality mobile game which puts players in a ‘real-world’ hunt for prizes from affiliated retail brands.

The actual size of the investment hasn’t been disclosed. 

Using smartphone location data in a similar vein to Pokémon Go, Snatch enables users to explore the area around them on the hunt for virtual parcels, which contain offers and giveaways from connected partners.

Before they can be used, however, prizes must be held for six hours, during which time other users of the app can potentially ‘snatch’ the goods.

So far Snatch has 25 brands on board including TopShop, TopMan, All Bar One, Just East, Pizza Hut Delivery, Now TV, and Unilever’s own Marmite, and claims to have secured £15 million worth in rewards ready to win.

The year for AR?

The CMO of Snatch, and former head of advertising at Paddy Power, Philip Lloyd admitted that the combination of brand rewards, real-world gaming and augmented reality is “virgin territory”.

With Unilever Ventures rarely giving seed funding to pre-series A companies, however, the investment is a vote of confidence in the augmented reality and gamification of the advertising space, as marketers continue to pursue more engaging, less intrusive forms of advertising.

It’s an opinion backed by Unilever Venture’s director, Jan Harley, who believes that the app has the potential to “transform” the way brands engage with consumers.

“Immersing people in an interactive environment where they’re actively seeking out products and feeling the elation of winning something tangible, is a really exciting addition to the marketing toolkit,” she commented.

Earlier in the year, OpenX’s managing director for EMEA, Andrew Buckman, predicted on PerformanceIN that augmented and virtual reality would take “centre stage” in 2017, with increased consumer engagement coming with additional perks of reduced costs for publishers, demand platforms and tech providers.

Following the funding, Snatch plans to work with Unilever Ventures to onboard new partners, add prizes and expand its product internationally and has a target of reaching 100,000 users by the end of March.