Recently, I was fortunate to travel to Toronto with our CEO, Robert Bruza, to participate and present at IAB Canada’s Business of Digital Seminar Series. The topic for the event pertained to the marketing and advertising implications of 360 degree content, virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality. The task of presenters, such as ourselves, AOL, PwC, INDE, Entertainment One, Secret Location and others was to present the audience with key takeaways as to how these technologies can be leveraged to engage consumers with immersive experiences.
There was no shortage of optimism surrounding the platforms. From folks who had created content, whether for 360, VR or AR to those who had experienced elaborate VR installations created by those brands bold enough to experiment, it was apparent that most, if not all, recognized that these technologies will most certainly find themselves securely planted in the marketing and advertising strategy playbooks.
The stats that were served up by presenters certainly seemed to corroborate these sentiments. There was a bevy of interesting numbers provided by PwC’s Jeremy Dalton, INDE’s Nigel Newton and IAB Canada’s very own Steve Rosenblum, supporting that these technologies are not only here to stay but that over the course of the next 3-5 years they’ll all experience tremendous growth. Some of the figures presented include:
- VR/AR projected to be $80 – $150 billion industry by 2020
- 110 million VR head mounted displays to ship in 2020
- 360 ads on mobile are generating 85% ad engagement
- Only 12% of survey respondents have used VR as marketing communications tool (still room for that first mover advantage!)
- >40% of marketers plan to experiment with VR and/or AR in the future
Is an Audience >2Billion Too Niche?
What if I told you that the real reach for 360 degree ads with one-touch virtual reality mode is greater than 2 billion? Would you consider that acceptable reach? The truth is that just about any smartphone (Android and iOS) along with just about any modern tablet or desktop computer is capable of displaying 360 degree ad formats. Why? Because companies like the one I work for have figured out how to get 360 degree content with one-touch virtual reality mode into digital display and native ad units. The ad content can be 360 degree video, 360 degree or panoramic still images, CG imagery, 2D assets or an assortment of all of the above.
If you view one of these 360 degree ad units on a smartphone you’re also just one touch away from complete and utter immersion in virtual reality. That’s because all it takes is just one touch to the mobile screen and the image on your phone splits in 2 and you can drop your phone into a Google Cardboard or similar mobile VR viewing device (aka headset) and voila…you’re completely immersed in a branded virtual reality experience.
But marketers needn’t fret if the consumer has a VR device or not. As recent studies have shown, consumers find 360 degree content on its own extremely compelling. They engage with 360 ads at much greater levels than traditional and video ads. Further, brand recall, content recall and intent to purchase also rise significantly with 360 degree content. Ultimately, the longer time spent with a 360 degree ad translates into brand lift and affinity – two critical pillars of success for any advertiser.
It’s Not About the Device, It’s About a New Content Format
The truth is that with the advent of virtual reality we’re seeing the introduction of an entirely new content format – with that format being 360 degree content. No longer is man constrained to viewing content inside a small rectangular box. And much like color television replaced black & white when it was introduced, 360 degree content will eventually supplant that little rectangular box. Why? Because we experience the world in 360 – just like we experience the world in color. Now with the simple movement of your phone – up, down, left, right, turning all the way around etc. – we can see everything and get the much needed context which is vital to how humans comprehend and assess situations. When we can experience content like this in complete 360 degrees on our phones why would we go back? As an advertiser, why wouldn’t you want your ads to be the same way? Unless it’s done for artistic purposes, you don’t run ads in black & white do you?
Why Does This Matter?
Now why is all this important to you as a brand, advertiser or publisher? Because the first mover advantage is real and 360 degree content is the bridge to virtual reality. Well over a hundred of the world’s leading brands have already started to use 360 degree video and images as well as virtual reality for marketing.
Most have distributed this content by way of social media channels like Facebook or YouTube or as immersive VR experiences in store, at trade shows and festivals. However, when it comes to 360 & VR content being leveraged as digital display or native ad units that can be seen on any device (that includes that pesky iPhone), browser, in app or platform we are still in the early days. It won’t be too long before most ads served digitally are 360 but before we see that glorious day there’s tremendous opportunity for those brands willing to dive in first. Remember, no headset is required to see extremely high levels of engagement and ultimately consumers will soon crave their content to be in 360, just as they craved for more color TV shows when color TV was introduced. Frankly it comes down to basic human nature.
For 360 & VR Ads – The Time is NOW
I began this post highlighting that as presenters and panelists at a recent IAB Canada event our task as VR & 360 experts and thought leaders was to present the audience with key takeaways as to how VR can be leveraged to engage consumers with immersive experiences. I trust that my CEO and I were successful in our goal to impress upon attendees that while tomorrow looks bright for both VR (and AR), you can start leveraging these technologies TODAY in the form of highly engaging, 360 degree ad formats with one-touch VR mode. Which then begs the question, why aren’t you advertising in 360 yet? We’re here when you ready!