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Love Burberry? Google Scans Your Lips And Lets You Kiss The Brand Through Your Smartphone

The latest to go live from Google’s Art, Copy & Code project delivers digital kisses alongside a glimpse at the future of digital advertising. Plus, some complicated feelings about your phone.

We vacation together, enjoy long walks on the beach and pretty much prefer to be touching at all times, but my iPhone and I had not kissed. Until yesterday.

Blame it on Burberry Kisses. The digital platform launches today as part of the British luxury brand’s partnership with Google and its experimental advertising initiative dubbed Art, Copy & Code.

Here's how it works: Mobile users with touchscreen devices can actually touch the screen with their lips to create a kiss (though, it should be noted, using your finger also works). At a computer, the web cam feature allows users to capture their lips and generate a print for the back of virtual envelope whose enclosed card can be filled out, addressed and sent by email or Google+. There’s also an option to skip the web-camming and phone-smooching and instantly slap a virtual pucker from a menu of lip prints onto your envelope and enhance or not, as you see fit, using one from a palette of Burberry lip colors.

Once sent, the envelope embarks upon a film-like journey through a 3-D virtual world populated by images and silhouettes of cityscapes and landscapes done up in smoky, muted tones while acoustic musician Misty Miller’s ‘Evergreen Love’ bubbles along in the background. Eventually, the envelope arrives at its destination city, at which point your recipient can access the sealed-with-a-kiss missive by email or Google+, open the envelope, read the message, reply by creating a new kiss or share the kiss across social networks.

“Our biggest challenge was really, how do you bring the same emotional feeling people have when interacting with Burberry in a physical environment and deliver that in a visual environment?” says Aman Govil, Art, Copy & Code project lead.

Hosted on dedicated platform that’s separate from, but links to, Burberry’s web site, Kisses aims to offer an immersive, interactive side trip into the brand’s world, one where fashion models Charlotte Wiggins and Rob Pryor target you with glances purposefully vague enough to inspire the sending of virtual kisses to, say, your mom one moment and someone you want to do more than hastily lip peck the next.

Perhaps the coolest feature is neither the kiss itself nor the messages you can send on the platform, but the world map that appears after sending a kiss. The map allows you to watch the virtual, shooting star-like trajectory of sent kisses in real-time as they travel from sender to recipient, as well as the locations around the world racking up the densest kissing populations. Both are understandably attractive tools for witnessing and comparing user engagement across locations.

The Burberry brand has become synonymous with digital innovation in recent years, with high-profile stunts such as a weather-enhanced runway in Tapei generating buzz alongside floor-to-ceiling digital displays in stores and experiments with smart personalization of its clothing. Its embrace of technology and use of digital marketing is credited with contributing to the brand’s growth, with projected revenues reported by the company in May up 8% to £2 billion and approximately 25 store openings planned for the 2014 fiscal year.

For Google, the project marks the second major release from the Art, Copy & Code team, whose Smileage app for Volkswagen encourages drivers to interact with other users and share across their social networks during road trips.

Where advertisers once labored in creating platform-specific campaigns tailored to different devices and viewing environments, technology is changing what’s possible, says Govil.

“Delivering such an engaging emotional experience designed really well and doing that at scale so you can run it anywhere...it’s relatively groundbreaking, and it paves the way for how a lot of this is going to be done right,” he says.

It’s no secret, of course, that helping brands to enhance their advertising efforts stands to benefit Google, which made 92% of its nearly $14 billion in revenue from advertising during the first quarter of the year.

For Burberry, the approach holds appeal for the younger, millennial shoppers it would like to reach with its most affordable entry point: beauty products.

Because really, underneath the virtual kisses and digital eye candy, of which there is plenty that’s fun to look at and play with, is the idea that you should also buy Burberry lipstick for the real-life lips that you will use for real-life kisses.

But you might want to wipe off the phone when you’re done.

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