Exploring VR, Immersive Advertising

Ad tech industry insiders are more contemplative about what’s been effective over the course of the year, and what might be poised for breakout success in 2017. One area that grew exponentially is virtual reality (VR) and what many have termed “immersive advertising,” a category which, in addition to VR, also encompasses augmented reality (AR) and 360-degree video.  

There were various successful examples of VR’s use in creating highly compelling branded content experiences that were interactive, engaging and gave consumers an element of control in cultivating their own meaningful relationship with a brand. Marriott created a multi-sensory experience called the “Teleporter” that virtually transported consumers to the Wai’anapanapa Black Sand Beach in Maui and Tower 42 in London, all without packing a suitcase. Isn’t this the ultimate nirvana for any successful marketing campaign? To create an experience that deepens the bond between consumer and brand. This is particularly relevant at a time when there is greater consumer disenchantment with ads, the use of ad blockers is growing, and consumers are demanding more to capture their attention in unique and creative ways.



For marketers who have yet to venture into the VR world, I have a few thoughts to share to help start you on your way:

Virtual Reality Requires a New Breed of Directors

Immersive environments offer viewers the opportunity to play “director” in creating their experience. This presents new challenges and opportunities for content creators who must leverage new techniques when repurposing content from linear environments. There can be a beginning and an end to a narrative; however, the middle portion might look more like a “choose your own adventure,” providing the consumer various paths to select to keep them interested, engaged, and in control of their experience. 

Consumers Still Need to Be Guided

Understanding the similarities that exist between an immersive 3D world and a distracted TV environment in a household setting is important in creating a new virtual world. In both environments, viewers can focus their attention on things other than the story a brand is trying to tell. This new type of storytelling requires a delicate balance of managing “freedom and flow,” by providing the consumer with the liberty to explore a new world or experience while also carrying them along a defined story arc that leads to desired brand engagement. 

Make It Emotionally Engaging

If done correctly, immersive content in a VR environment can be more emotionally engaging than content in a 360-degree video or a traditional TV viewing experience. This emotional response is largely driven by the format’s ability to give the illusion of presence in a new, sometimes unfamiliar environment, in a hyper-realistic way. In doing so, brands can present experiences that are designed to produce an element of surprise and elicit joy and delight. Moreover, the consumer’s heightened senses fully engage them emotionally in the story and the brand message.  

Immersive ad formats have the potential to transform the advertising experience for brands, publishers and consumers. A perfect storm of events is approaching in 2017; the momentum for VR adoption is strong as the price point of headsets dip below $100 in a push to drive mainstream use. Also, more publishers are creating exclusive content for the format. Brands realize the value of developing these experiences -- a format owned by the gaming and entertainment industry now holds promise for the automotive industry, travel and tourism, consumer packaged goods, and retail. If 2016 was any indication, its rapid growth will only continue in 2017, from mere conversations about its potential to implementations that have a real impact on brand awareness.

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