‘In Someone Else’s Shoes’: 5 Questions With Santander CMO Maria Veltre

Santander Bank has developed an augmented reality (AR) app, called “In Someone Else’s Shoes,” that conveys the feeling of being homeless while employed—a group that represents 25 percent of the homeless population.

“By bringing attention to a segment of the population who are misjudged by society and don’t feel respected—the working homeless—we hope to reshape the narrative around this issue and help close the respect gap,” said Michael Cleary, co-president of Santander Bank, in a press release.

Maria Veltre, CMO and US head of digital, innovation and payment strategy at Santander, told brandchannel that the concept behind the AR-enhanced experience “is to use technology to put the viewer in the subject’s shoes and see things from a different point of view.”

For every download of “In Someone Else’s Shoes,” Santander will donate $1 to organizations committed to placing people into more permanent housing.

brandchannel spoke with Veltre about the campaign.

What was the inspiration for this campaign and is this a first-use of AR for a banking brand?

Maria Veltre Santander

At Santander Bank, respect is at the foundation of everything we do—from how we interact with our colleagues to how we connect with our customers and engage in our communities.

Santander has broader commitments to helping the affordable housing crisis, but we were shocked to discover that 25 percent of the homeless population is actually employed. By bringing attention to this segment of the population who are misjudged by society and might not get the respect they deserve, we hope to reshape the narrative around this issue.

We saw augmented reality as an opportunity to help drive respect and empathy for the working homeless population by letting people walk a day in their shoes.

What do you see as the draw to this campaign and what are your expectations for ROI?

We really aren’t looking at this as a project that will drive business ROI. This was about rallying everyone at Santander and the people we serve in our community to connect and participate in something bigger than themselves for a great cause. The return we are most proud of from this program is knowing we helped put over 200 individuals and families in permanent housing.

The experience is pioneering the integration of volumetric video, photogrammetry and computer graphics. Please elaborate. 

To create this experience, our partners at Arnold assembled a team of technologists at the cutting edge of AR content capture and experience design. We captured our composite character, Jen, on one of the few volumetric capture stages in the country (located at Georgia Tech). It is not only among the first real-time retargeting volumetric content ever released, it is also the longest narrative AR volumetric piece released to date. What’s most important is the way the technology gives users an intimate, interactive look at the daily struggles the working homeless go through every day.

As for your $1 matching donation for every download, what are the criteria for receiving organizations?

We are focused on organizations that help the working homeless move into more permanent housing. There are so many people that are doing their best and trying to make ends meet, but it’s just not enough. Our non-profit recipient, Heading Home, has been helping end homelessness in the Boston community for over four decades by creating pathways to self-sufficiency, beginning with housing and continuing with critical supportive services.

What feedback did your Boston interactive installation last month receive and how will this inform any initiatives going forward as the playbook for AR in advertising is still being written? 

The positive reaction to the installation was humbling. Over the course of our three-day activation across the city, thousands of Bostonians braved the cold rain to experience a day in Jen’s shoes. Even more participated in our digital walkathon, clocking over 20,000 miles in a week to help us raise $200,000 in donations and raise awareness for the working homeless community. This is the first year of Santander Bank taking action in the physical world to spread respect, whether that be with augmented reality or other mediums and technology, and we look forward to continuing projects of this kind in the future.”

Madrid-based Banco Santander serves more than 117 million customers in the U.K., Europe, Latin America and the U.S. and through its local affiliates, including Santander Bank, Banco Santander is the largest corporate contributor to higher education in the world, investing over $165 million annually in colleges and universities.

Get more insights in our Q&A series.

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