In today’s advanced environment, it seems as though technology can do almost anything. This year there have been more and more commercials promoting a peculiar, goggle-like contraption that phones snap into. Or, maybe you witnessed someone making their own cardboard goggle-like set. If you don’t recognize the gadget, it is a virtual reality device. If you are familiar with the gadget, you may want to familiarize yourself with the major impact it is making on the advertising industry.
What Does It Mean To Be Considered Virtual Reality?
To be fair I am new at the realm of virtual reality. My slight exposure comes from the endless Samsung commercials that cropped up over the holidays. I understood what the devices were, but I didn’t really see them actually demonstrating their use. Some of us may not even know what they are, which is understandable, because the device is relatively new (we don’t see many being advertised to the general audience). It may not seem like virtual reality should be new because it has been a thought for so long, but for many of us it is new. We never before had the option to participate in virtual reality activities in the comfort of our home. For many of us, the closest thing we would have experienced would be advanced video games. Plus, this thought that virtual reality and video games are synonymous is slowly dissolving. Today, virtual reality is possible for anyone with a cell phone. You don’t even need to buy a special device, the internet is littered with ‘how-to’s’ and templates for building your own device with card board.
But does strapping a device to your face provide you with virtual reality? The answer is no. In an article titled How Virtual Reality Works by Jonathan Strickland, I learned the in’s and out’s of VR including its history, developments, and terms. Strickland also explains the elements necessary for content to be considered VR.
- The content must have 3D qualities
- The content must be responsive to the users actions/responses
So, number one is pretty self explanatory. You expect to view 3D content while engulfed in a VR experience. The second however seems a bit trickier. When a user is in a VR environment the simulation must feed off of their actions and movements. So, if you look to the left, the content should respond and you should move left. The technology feeds off of the user, which is an essential part, because if the user does not feel like they are in control then the VR quality is low. The best VR can take users on a journey where they forget that they are just sitting on a couch with a box strapped to their head. This concept is referred to as immersion. The better the immersion – the better the VR.
How Will VR Impact Advertising In 2016?
So now that we know a bit about VR it’s time to understand how this new technology will impact advertising. To learn more about this topic I read an article titled What Does Virtual Reality Mean For Adverting In 2016, by Anne Cassidy, the Guardian.
The article had some really great insight. To my surprise, since the mainstream technology is so new, there are many large name organizations taking part. And, I know you may be sitting there thinking, “oh yay interactive advertisements,” but that isn’t necessarily what is happening. You see, to be successful in this medium organizations have to be creative and make interactive content that users seek out. You cannot just make a 3D commercial and call it a day. One of the great examples used in the article is a VR creation for Merrell hiking boots. Merrell’s creation showcased a person hiking in a VR environment and crossing a wooden bridge (Read more about the campaign through AdWeek’s coverage). If you go to Ad Week’s coverage, you can see some of the footage of the content. The concept is really impressive, and really quite terrifying. To be able to put yourself on a rickety bridge on a mountain is pretty intense, which is why it gained so much attention for Merrell.
The key difference is that users don’t want to just see demos they want to be exposed to the uniqueness of the brand through engaging experiences. This new advertising avenue really takes engagement to the next level. In the coming months we will see many organizations releasing their VR technology and making a go at VR content. We are really in the phase of development and experimentation, but creativity, uniqueness and keeping the user in mind will remain top goals.