The Washington Post’s AR Experience Reveals How Cherry Blossoms Bloom

Its BrandStudio created it in a browser for client MGM

The Washington Post's creative studio team designed its first browser AR experience. - Credit by WP BrandStudio
Headshot of Sara Jerde

For the first time, The Washington Post’s branded content company, BrandStudio, built an augmented reality experience that can be viewed outside of the publication’s mobile app.

By making it viewable in a browser, the experience of watching cherry blossoms bloom—which was built for client MGM—can be seen on iOS and Android devices, said Annie Granatstein, head of WP BrandStudio.

“Our appetite for innovation matches the clients’ appetite for innovation,” Granatstein said. “Cherry blossoms themselves are such a visual and beautiful and almost emotional thing for people… we’re covering cherry blossom season with a nice bit of creativity for us.”

The AR experience is viewable without having to download an additional app.

Just in time for D.C.’s cherry blossom season, the studio team wrote a story about the MGM National Harbor and what’s offered there for the big event. Embedded in the story is a pop-up option in which readers can launch the AR experience, putting a cherry blossom tree near you and listening to the steps of how a tree’s cherry blossoms bloom.

MGM wanted to reach a large audience, so putting the experience on Android and iOS devices was important, said Brett Pearce, art director, WP BrandStudio.

Previously, WP BrandStudio created a virtual tour of artwork at the MGM National Harbor for the client.

“The collaborative efforts between both creative teams has successfully brought to life an AR experience—online and at the resort—that is unlike any other creative delivery in this market,” said Jessica McKesey, director of brand marketing and advertising at MGM National Harbor, in a statement. “It is sure to engage our audience and establish MGM National Harbor’s place in the excitement of cherry blossom season.”

As users listen to how trees mature, the blooms react, and users can zoom around and look at each of the flowers. After the narration is completed, the screen gives users a blossom-filled filter to experiment with.

The experience will be promoted with signage at the MGM National Harbor, which will include a QR code.

The idea for the project was born out of the studio-wide taskforce, the “Emerging Media Taskforce,” to regularly meet and brainstorm ways to best use technological advancements in their projects. It’s been one way the studio has benefited from a “culture of experimentation” that has fostered under Jeff Bezos’ ownership of the publication, Granatstein said.

“We found that all these different groups within the studio were off researching their own storytelling, but we didn’t have one place to knowledge share and prioritize and share the research,” she added. “This is a place for us to do that.”


@SaraJerde sara.jerde@adweek.com Sara Jerde is publishing editor at Adweek, where she covers traditional and digital publishers’ business models. She also oversees political coverage ahead of the 2020 election.