Want to create a project which really wow audiences? Then you need to go to a VR or AR start up.
The world of advertising is incredibly competitive. Every day, thousands of brands will strive to gain our attention across all platforms whether it’s video, online, in print or on bill boards. Each of them hope to find new ways to catch our eye.
The emergence of virtual and augmented reality creates a unique opportunity. Take, for example, this fantastic VR promotion from Pepsi Max using an apparently ordinary looking bus-stop. Passengers looking through what they thought was glass were treated to all sorts of fantastic displays such as a tentacled monster reaching through the pavement to grab a pedestrian and a fleet of attacking UFOs. More recently, Netflix also used a bus-stop to promote its new series, Altered Carbon. In a West Hollywood bus stop a realistic human like mannequin was ‘incubated’. Passengers could touch, prod and poke the mannequin, which also had realistic breathing, as they waited for their bus. It caused a little murmur of controversy but got people talking.
Virtual reality, meanwhile, gives audiences the experience of literally ‘being there’. Adidas had tremendous success with its campaign Reach the Summit which used 360-degree video to capture the ascent of the Bevelas mountain ranges by two climbers, Ben Rueck and Dilaney Miller. It’s a campaign which is impactful when viewed in conventional video, but is stunning through immersive VR technology.
Getting it right
These are examples of how VR and AR can create new avenues of engagement for marketing firms. They enable them to open up a new dimension in the case of the Netflix campaign, or to experience the lifestyle a product gives them. Either way, it’s something memorable that will stick with them and that they will discuss with other people.
It creates a buzz and enables the campaign to have an impact far beyond the people who see it first. Unsurprisingly, given the success of this approach, other brands have been quick to emulate it. However, some will be more successful than others.
Take the example of Mark Zuckerberg who used Facebook’s 360degree video app to showcase his company’s efforts to help in with the devastation in Puerto Rico. The problem here, his grinning avatar felt tasteless to many people, especially when it high fived another grinning avatar against a backdrop of devastated homes.
Other organisations have seen projects fall flat simply because they haven’t approached the topic in the right way. A lack of understanding about how VR or AR works, and how it can connect with audiences can see promotions miss their mark. Equally, a failure to make the most of the available technology can result in a disappointing result.
Established video production houses have seen the writing on the wall and are working to bring 360 degree video into their operations, but they lack the specialist expertise required to be truly effective. Instead they seek to simply re-task technology and techniques meant for 2D and make them work in the 3D environment. The results are normally as disappointing as the movies which hastily tried to remodel themselves to show in 3D.
Equally, VR videos will often need to take advantage of existing technologies and practices. For example, people working in the visual effects industry will have a lot to bring to the table for VR, but will need technology and specialist expertise to truly make the transition.
To get the best results, marketing firms should go with specialists who understand the technology inside out. The good news is that there is a host of start-ups and small tech companies who can offer exactly that. VR Start-ups raised a record $2.8bn in 2016 and topped $3bn in 2017. They each bring dedicated expertise in a certain area of technology.
Marriot, for example, partnered with two VR companies, Framestore VR and Relevant to create a 4D virtual teleporter which can transport users to Marriot hotels all over the world. Adidas used a host of different technologies to capture their spectacular climbing experience: 16 Go Pro Cameras on Google Jumps 8K stereoscopic rig, all supported by a team of photographers and software technicians to create a uniquely immersive experience.
These are major projects and smaller companies might not think they are in that league. However, it is possible, by choosing the right partner, to scale up video and animation projects to VR and 360 degrees. Companies such as the Draw Shop help companies with short whiteboard animation videos.
These simple drawings are a good way to quickly and visually explain an idea or a concept. However, turning it into a VR or 360-degree video in which the customer can become fully immersed gives it an extra impact.
VR, then, spans the entire gamut – from high tech and big budget projects such as Adidas, to simple and affordable 360-degree videos accessible with something as simple as a smartphone or a basic cardboard viewer. That opens up all sorts of possibilities. You could make an App viewable in VR or create a video game capable of being played in VR mode – with your branding on it.
It’s about blending technologies. The market is full of exciting VR start-ups offering specialist expertise, but at the same time you will still need traditional technologies and approaches such as messaging and storytelling.
Most of all it’s about keeping an eye on the goal. Many companies are looking at VR and AR as the next exciting development in their digital marketing strategies, but they haven’t yet understood how to fully integrate the technology using it instead as a simple add-on. However, as ownership of VR headsets becomes more widespread, the audience is growing. This is something which all brands should be focusing on – of all sizes