I’ve spent the last year introducing VR to creative agencies and brands across the pacific, from Hong Kong to Los Angeles.
It should come as NO SURPRISE that nearly everyone has at best little experience with VR. Even the early adopters I’ve met with have often only had limited exposure to the medium, and subsequently base their opinions on a very narrow cross-section of experiences.
Let’s level the playing field now…no one has experience in VR comparable to its most closely related fields of Digital Media, Film, Animation or Video Game production. The industry is still far too new to have developed anything resembling a track record, at least not from a marketing perspective.
“YuMe surveyed more than 800 US individuals between the age of 18 – 54 to understand current attitudes about and potential demand within the immersive technology space, and to better understand potential advertising opportunities. What the survey found was that 86 percent of respondents had heard of VR but only 29 percent had actually tried any form of VR. Of those that had tried VR, 63 percent felt it was the ‘next big thing’.”
Immediately after our first few prospective client pitches, we learned NOT to trust someone when they said they’ve ‘tried it before’, and as quickly as possible put them into a headset for a demonstration.
Why do we do that?
The thousands upon thousands of articles being written in this field have already started to shape opinions faster than consumers can access the technology. Everyone has their agenda, so articles take on all shapes and sizes as they seek to bring people onboard with their predictions for how the industry will shape itself over the next decade.
No company, especially independent studios, can fight that tsunami of self-interest…but there is something that CAN…well-crafted VR EXPERIENCES SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES!
Understanding the Medium
VR is a Medium, not a Technology.
This is the mantra I hammer into everyone I know for good reason. First, as humans we painted on caves, then skins and leather. Finally, paper entered the picture followed by film, which lead to creation of animation and motion pictures, opening a whole new realm of possibilities to capture the hearts of people looking for something beyond the experiences of their daily life.
Computer technology quickly changed the shape of many parts of these industries, introduced the concept of interactive stories through video games. All this history searched for that fleeting moment when one loses oneself in the fantasy, ultimately laying the foundation for VR.
It is all about the storytelling, no one wants to spend time doing something they haven’t emotionally invested in. What types of tales do you enjoy? What world do you live in when you daydream?
VR gives you a platform to explore the creative in a deeply personal way, making you forget where and who you are for that fleeting moment, diving into your own chosen fantasy. To a person, online marketers and social media influencers recognize this need to craft the story fit for a VR experience.
Jesse Stay, Futurist and Author “Brands need to be getting ready — by end of 2017 VR and mixed reality will be much more mainstream, and all brands will need to have experiences built and ready for this.…The world around each customer is now the brand’s canvas.”
Stewart Rogers, Journalist, Analyst and speaker for Venture Beat “So the time for VR marketing is now, not in the future…Brands can leverage the opportunity through amazing, emotional content. Whether as a trailer experience injected ahead of another VR movie or game, or a branded mini-experience within a related property, through product/brand placement, or a fully created and owned piece of original content, brands can no longer wait to see if VR is becoming the next big thing. It already is.”
Tamara McCleary, International branding expert and top 1% of Social Media influencers “Brands can spend a lot of money chasing new technology and not getting results. The goal is creating “a more personalized connection between customer and brand…”
The Challenge- No Fear
Realistically speaking, most marketers understand this now, and maybe even personally are willing to try. The problem they face is buy-in at an institutional level. How can they explain all of this to their boss when even they really don’t fully understand?
Luckily the medium itself is simple once you take your first few steps. The jargon can be confusing mainly because a standard has not yet emerged, but there are a few common formats you can still make yourself aware of.
- 360 Film and Photos: 360 media can come to you in two forms, either still photographs or videos. These are produced almost the same way your familiar digital media photography and videos are produced, the only difference being you can capture every angle around you in 360 rather than a single lens focus point. There is now even a VR Photography Association established to explore this medium globally!
- Animated VR: These VR experiences use the same tools that Disney and DreamWorks use when they animate their spectacular films. The only difference between ‘Moana’ and a ‘Moana VR’ experience for example is that in VR you would be inside the Moana world. See Google’s Spotlight Stories heartwarming VR animated music video ‘Pearl’ to understand the power of this new format.
- Hybrid: Computer animation and 360 digital media can be blended together as needed. Imagine stepping into the world of ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?’ where you are standing next to the famed cartoon bunny in the real world setting of the film, and you can understand the capability. Watch the shark to see what I mean.
- Interactive VR: These VR experiences use the basic tools from Video Game production to create environments you can interact with in VR. Grab a controller and move around at will, the production techniques are the same as those utilized by Sony, EA Sports, and Ubisoft when they release their hit titles into the gaming world. Conan O’Brien shows it best when he took Team Coco into an interactive virtual world!
Producing VR is similar to what many brand representatives are already doing on a daily basis. The skill sets required of a comprehensive VR production team are more demanding than a traditional media production studio because they are much broader, but this doesn’t effect your marketers or your brand.
The most important consideration you have is to think through your creative. Understand your customers and what you want to convey to them. What is your story, and why does a VR experience enhance that emotional connection your customer will have?
You Want Examples? I got Examples!
This has been happening throughout 2016, and there are already many experiences to choose from. Want to see some VR experiences? You can experience them from your own computer and YouTube. Each of the below examples has over 1 million hits on YouTube, and represent interesting takes on 360 storytelling. I’ll bet you weren’t aware of who already jumped onto the VR bandwagon!
- NYT Fight for Falluja (2 million views)
- Qantas and Tourism Australia (4 million views)
- Gorillaz 360° (9.3 million views)
- Colgate (11.5 million views)
- Lipton Tea (6.6 million views)
- Fiat 'A Whole New Spin' (1.5 million views)
- Philippines Tourism (3 million+ views)
- Richard Branson's Virgin Media House Party (3 million+ views)
- Summer in Dubai Tourism Promo (20 million views)
When you open these links, simply use your mouse to click and drag the camera angle left, right, up or down as you desire! If you look on your phone through the YouTube app, you can just move your phone around yourself to see all the different angles, or better yet view with your own VR device!