How Absolut Took Virtual Reality To The Masses

Many of the challenges of adopting and implementing any major new technological innovation are internal and not technological.

I run into countless execs at various levels both in and out of marketing who have a pretty good handle on knowing their organization should be more involved in the Internet of Things.

Companies typically aren’t held back by those people, but rather all the people and processes around them.

At MediaPost’s OMMA VR/AR at Advertising Week conference this week, a lead innovator at a major brand detailed how his organization came around.

In a keynote presentation, Absolut Labs Director Afdhel Aziz demonstrate how the vodka brand’s marketing unit created a ground-breaking VR video game.

Absolut identified a problem it saw as being in its wheelhouse: fewer than 1% of those who wanted to attend a specific concert were able to attend.

It all started with that problem of conference attendance and Aziz and team decided to do a test using virtual reality.

In what Aziz dubbed a closed beta experience, Absolut Labs created a test with a small crowd, some basic technology and some editing and viewing testing, all of which worked as planned.

Absolut then moved to a larger test, involving a sellout concert, a large amount of technology including 360-degree broadcast and giving away 5,000 Google Cardboard branded VR headsets, in packages of three. They then arranged for the concert to be live-streamed via the headsets.

Absolut found that people watched for 19 minutes and there were 600 viewing parties, helped along by friends inviting friends, since the headsets came several-to-a package.

Success there led to yet a larger test, this one involving a global electronic music artist, the latest 360-degree VR technology, an immersive, interactive film, headsets designed by the artist and a monetization strategy.

Aziz said the objective of that trial was to create an immersive brand content experience that deepens engagement with a 25-35 millennial audience.

Results of that program to date are more than 150 million public relations impressions, including stories in major national publications.

But here’s the key: Absolut Labs had to get internal buy-in every step of the way.

Aziz detailed some of his organizational questions that need to be addressed:

  • Do you have permission and time to experiment and fail?
  • Are the CEO and CMO backing the project 100%?
  • Do you understand how to work in creative sprints and develop new ideas quickly?
  • How do you measure success? Applying traditional measures will produce traditional ideas.

The approach for Absolut was to create Absolut Labs, where this type of innovation originates.

Aziz said a lab can enable an organization to think and act like a startup, ignite new ways of solving problems and unearth breakthrough ideas.

Some people inside organizations already see the Internet of Things coming along at full steam.

We know, since we see and talk to these people at events like the VR/AR Advertising Week conference.

They aren’t going to hold the organization back.

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