Marketing in New Dimensions: How Virtual Reality Could Change the Way Brands Advertise, Part 1

It’s not every day that you get an opportunity to create advertising for a brand new medium, but with the advent of affordable and popular virtual reality equipment, savvy companies are getting a chance to do exactly that. Facebook, which owns Oculus Rift, has already invested in a video creation tool that allows advertisers to publish 360° videos  — videos that can be viewed on a standard screen, but are obviously designed with virtual reality in mind.

And that’s only the tip of the iceberg — even though no one knows exactly how VR advertising is going to work, how it’s going to be implemented, or who it’s going to target, plenty of brands are already jumping on the virtual bandwagon in an attempt to get ahead of the competition: North Face produced a dizzying 360° video of a base jump to promote its winter gear, Gatorade produced a promotional video that puts the viewer in the shoes of MLB slugger, and several car manufacturers have released immersive videos that give you a chance to really experience what it is to drive their vehicles. It’s not just consumer products that have a home in virtual reality — for example, the New York Times produced a powerful video about children displaced by war that was meant to be experienced in VR.

This presents a challenge and an opportunity for advertisers and their motion departments – creating video that looks good and works in virtual reality is bound to be a challenge for people used to creating media for standard screens. Creating compelling VR content is going to require equipment, training, and most likely, practice, and it’s not going to be something that every studio can reliably do.

At the same time though, there is unprecedented opportunity — for the first time in a while, there is room to do something completely new, completely innovative. It’s an entirely untouched frontier, and thought-leaders and innovators should rightfully be excited about that.

It’s very likely that what advertising does end up being common in virtual reality is something we’ve not yet thought of, or is something familiar re-created in an entirely novel way. After all, even the most forward-thinking people don’t really have a good handle on what virtual reality headsets will be used for, or how they will integrate into our existing electronic landscape. Will they explode into daily use, or remain a niche product for gamers and hobbyists?

Regardless of where it ends up, advertisers are and should be excited about the potential applications of virtual reality — there are no doubt undiscovered or untapped avenues of content delivery that savvy creators can take advantage of, and it’s going to be very exciting to see what emerges.

Hooked? Stay tuned for part 2/2 of our VR series.

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