Getting the Most out of Virtual Reality

As part of a new series, each month we’ll bring you valuable industry and market insights inspired by research from Y&R’s Global Intelligence Team. This week, we’ll explore the maturing Virtual Reality (VR) market and the opportunities and challenges advertisers face when reaching consumers in new and innovative ways.

If you thought VR was a fleeting trend, better think again. Last week Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg cemented his confidence in the future of VR technology, announcing that Oculus would commit $250 million to fund a range of new content such as games and entertainment. This comes just ahead of news that at least three major VR platforms plans will be launching from Google, Facebook and Sony in October and November.

VR is booming because of its ability to captivate and engage users in an immersive space. Subsequently, brands and marketers are rapidly adopting the medium as a powerful storytelling tool as they invest in the development of new experiences for consumers. However, the novelty of the medium also means best practices and strategic insights are still being explored and fine-tuned.

After looking at how brands and companies have incorporated this new technology, we’ve uncovered a few tips on how brands and companies can successfully use Virtual and Augmented Reality to engage consumers:

Create More Than Just Ads; Create Experiences

Rather than creating a passive ad, brands and companies can use VR to connect with customers on a whole new level by offering consumers engaging new experiences that they may not have had otherwise and, more so, that they will remember.

“VR is the next great storytelling tool for brands,” said Ben Kosinski, head of The Collaboratory at iCrossing. “It allows people to interact with brands and experiences in an entirely new, immersive format. “When using VR, people feel like they are a part of the story and not just spectators. As markets figure out ways to insert themselves in this type of environment, they’ll be creating a lasting relationship with consumers who will see them as part of their interests and entertainment consumption.”

An example of this was Jaguar’s “Actual Reality” campaign created by Y&R New Zealand, which earned Gold at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity earlier this summer. The stunt saw the transformation of a seemingly innocuous “virtual” test drive by blurring the lines between simulation and reality. Drivers were stunned by how “real” the VR experience looked and felt – only to be surprised that their VR test drive of Jaguar’s F-TYPE Model was an actual, real life high speed spin around the track with a professional driver.

Source: “Why Virtual Reality is Potentially Brands’ Next Lucrative Storytelling Medium” – Mobile Marketer

Innovate with mobile

Though the application of Virtual Reality may seem daunting for brands and companies, VR can be easily and effectively integrated with consumer’s personal mobile devices.

Google was one of the first companies to combine VR and mobile with Google Cardboard. Cardboard allowed users to download an app, plug their phones into a cardboard “VR Headset” and take photos. Though not as advanced as Oculus or other VR brands, Cardboard offered a glimpse into the possibilities of VR using the tools users already had. This past year, Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival also created a cardboard virtual reality viewer and a VR app for mobile devices that users could download to enjoy access to behind-the-scenes moments. In addition, McDonald’s joined VR with mobile for The Angry Birds Movie premier though an exclusive augmented reality game. Not only did this showcase McDonald’s awareness of the increasing trend towards creating life-like mobile experiences, but also succeeded in capturing a younger target audience through engaging content and the way in which it was delivered.

Source: “Mcdonald’s Unpacks Virtual Reality Experience to Augment Summer Blockbuster Tie-In” – Mobile Marketer

Bring VR to your store

Tommy Hilfiger created an in-store virtual reality experience for their consumers by providing SamsungGear VR headsets for shoppers to watch Tommy Hilfiger’s New York catwalk show as though they were in the front row. This proved to be a success as shoppers who engaged with the VR catwalk experience were immediately able to shop apparel and accessories from the collection.

“Through virtual reality, we’re now able to bring our one-of-a-kind fashion show to the retail setting… It’s a compelling and interesting elevation of the traditional shopping experience”, said Tommy Hilfiger in a press statement.

Source: “Virtual Reality: A Game Changer for Luxury Retail” – Euromonitor

Offer consumers a behind-the-scenes look

Virtual Reality can be used by offering consumers unique experiences through providing a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on within the company or brand.

The New York Times created its first episodic VR series including behind-the-scenes action in the art, design, fashion and entertainment industries. The “Voyager” series, for example, proved to be highly engaging for audiences, as they were able to take part in the magazine’s stories by being able to follow photographers as they traveled around the world on assignment. In addition, the NYT highlighted their VR initiative by creating a free app that worked with Google’s Cardboard headset and promoted the effort by shipping Cardboard to all home delivery subscribers.

“Our upcoming Times Video series will offer our audience some of the most innovative and exciting visual journalism that only The New York Times can create,” said Alexandra MacCallum, senior VP and assistant editor of video. “As we’ve seen with our successful foray into virtual reality, The Times continues to push the boundaries of what is possible for amplifying our news report and features with video.”

Source: “NewFronts: New York Times Doubles Down on VR With Episodic Series” – Hollywood Reporter

Maintain a clear sense of purpose

While figuring out how to use VR, it’s important to deliver the right kind of VR experience for your company or brand in order to engage with consumers in the most effective way.

“You should only use VR when it’s the only natural solution to deliver on [a] problem and no other medium could do,” said Resh Sidhu, virtual reality creative director at visual effects company Framestore. “The most profound VR experiences are the result of mapping the physical and digital world so that everything is choreographed and the wind blows and the floor shakes at specific moments, which heightens the experience.”

Marc Battaglia, Creative Director at Marriott International, agrees that not everything should be VR. “There has to be a purpose behind it.” For Marriot, that purpose was creating a complete immersion for the user and a unique taste of distant destinations. For example, they created the “Teleporter” initiative, which took wedding guests on virtual trips to London and Hawaii, and a program where hotel guests could try VR tech by ordering it via room service. “We’re aiming to take people to places they normally can’t go to [and] give them access to experiences they normally couldn’t access,“ said Battaglia.

Sources: “Good VR is not cheap and cheap VR is not good: How to not do bad VR” – The Drum; “Marriott’s Strategy for VR” – Warc 

All in all, the rise of Virtual Reality provides a unique opportunity for brands and companies to integrate VR with their strategy and engage with consumers through innovative and memorable experiences rather than passive advertising. 

*Y&R employees can access the Y&R Global Intelligence monthly Dossier for more information via the intranet.