Creative Matters with Immersive 360 VR Ad Content
Digital advertising isn’t as simple as slapping a picture of a product on a nice background and captioning it with the words, “Buy this product.” Usually, the process of creating an ad is more detailed and more creative than that. You need to have the right imagery (one that matches the brand and grabs attention), the right messaging (text that resonates and calls for action without sounding too aggressive), the right offer and in today’s culturally sensitive times you also need to make sure your ad isn’t offensive (case in point Pepsi’s recent Kendall Jenner ad fail).
If you’re a marketer or advertiser you’re probably rolling your eyes at this moment thinking, “Well, of course I know that.” Well good! Because just like every other creative tool that has evolved out of technological advancements, when it comes to creating engaging and effective immersive 360VR ads you can’t just rely on the technology, you need good creative too!
Since 360 VR advertising is so nascent, it’s easy to forget that the basic rules of advertising still apply. Just because you have a 360 video or image doesn’t mean that you have a 360VR ad that is ready go. Yes, 360 and VR ad content is immersive and engaging, but if you don’t know how to properly implement it, then you’ve just thrown its engagement and immersive properties out the window. Because if putting a 360 camera in the middle of an environment is what you consider as immersive 360 VR ad content, then you’re doing it wrong.
Before I go on, let me give you an example of an excellent execution of immersive 360 VR ad content. This is a brand centric 360 VR video ad by StubHub. Coming in at approximately 6 minutes in length, it’s much longer than your typical video ad but it serves as a good example for some of the tricks to brand storytelling with this new medium.
It has a storyline and uses multiple environments (concerts, an office, a photoshoot) that serve as interesting things to look at. For example, in the office scene, it starts off looking at the main female character as she’s talking to people in her team. You see her look at someone behind you (and you hear a door open) and you turn around and see another team member coming in her office to tell her something. That’s pretty clever as they’ve added visual elements, aka visual cues, to the environment that make you want to turn around. And that’s exactly how people should execute immersive 360 VR ad content.
So going back to advertising with 360VR content, creative matters. And with that, let me give you a few things to think about when producing and developing creative for your 360 VR ad.
1. How do I initially engage people to play with or view the 360 ad?
One of the strengths of immersive 360VR ads is their ability to trigger initial ad engagement, especially on mobile. That’s partly due to the fact that 360VR ads respond to device movement. So if you’re scrolling through a web page and your device has the slightest movement the content within the ad responds and moves. This functionality within an ad is still so novel that it serves as a good attention getting tool.
Another way to trigger ad engagement and one that we recommend to clients, is to take advantage of what we call “perpetual movement.” The combination of HTML5 and 360 technology enables you to automatically pan the visuals of an ad around thereby catching the eye of a viewer – much like a video would but without the use of video.
Both of these features (ad responsiveness to device movement and autopanning) are so effective because they tap into the basic survival instincts of humans – if we see movement out of the corner of our eye, our immediate response is to look at this movement to quickly identify if it’s a threat or not. As such, employing these tactics can trigger initial ad engagement. That said, you also need to support this with good creative and a bit more heavy handed things like using text, arrows and other visual cues to let the users know how they can interact with an ad that is unlike any they’ve seen before. You need to employ clever CTAs and leverage powerful imagery the same as you would with a traditional ad.
2. How do I sustain engagement?
Now that your immersive 360VR ad has grabbed the user’s attention, the next thing you want them to do is explore and engage with your content – you want to sustain ad engagement. With a 360VR ad, you now have new opportunities by which to sustain ad engagement and immerse the audience. Obviously the longer you can do this the better.
Longer Engagement = More Brand Affinity
But how do you sustain engagement within a 360VR ad? Simple: you leverage this enlarged ad canvas by always making sure that there’s something compelling to look at as you use it to tell a story. And a great way to execute on this is by taking advantage of visual cues because they encourage people to look around and explore your 360 VR ad content.
Going back to the StubHub example (if you still haven’t watched it even after I gave you the link, you should!), there are two scenes that show the main characters’ memories together. And the way they do this is by having pictures of the main characters appear throughout a black background, but the way the images appear is by having them circle around the viewer – prompting the user to turn around, move their device and follow the path of the pictures. In another scene, they do another black background with images appearing throughout, but this time, the main female character is running around looking at the images and thus, visually cueing the viewer to follow wherever she goes.
Those two examples are great executions of visual cues, but it doesn’t even have to be that complex. You can even do simple visual cues such as signs or symbols telling viewers to “Look here!” or “Turn around!” You can even use other tools like hotspots (visible and invisible interactive spots that highlight things in 360 VR content) that provide more information about sections of the content. Another way is by “gamifying” a 360 image and using hotspots to create a “find and seek” game (like our Fantastic Beasts ad demo). These things encourage the viewer to look around the environment, sustain engagement and ultimately immerse the user in a branded experience.
So be sure that there’s always something that compels people to look around and provide cues to help guide the user along alerting them that there’s more to this ad than meets the eye. You can’t forget that this medium is so new that many consumers don’t even know they can interact with 360VR ads. Hence, you need to deliver creative that resonates and educates on how to interact with your ad.
3. Is what I want to show better off as a 360 video or a 360 image?
360 degree images can sometimes be just as compelling as 360 video if leveraged properly.This is especially effective if your main purpose is to just have people explore and look around without having a story element to it. What do I mean by that?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a 360 video with little to no action. The video was literally shot just to showcase a certain location to users so that they could take in the scene. If that’s the case, the same effect can be achieved with a 360 image. And yes, you can still add background music, sound effects, interactive hotspots, overlays and the like to make a 360 image even more immersive.
There are advantages to using compelling 360 images over video as well. First, because they aren’t restricted by the length of the video, users can explore at their leisure, on their terms, without any time constraints. Second, because you’re dealing with images instead of video the ad will load quicker and the user experience won’t be as dependent on the integrity of the user’s wifi or cellular connection. And finally, you’ll save on production costs as it’s less expensive to produce 360 images than video.
Basics of Advertising
In the end, it’s important to remember that creating immersive 360 VR ad content uses the same basic rules of advertising. And just like in traditional advertising, creative matters! Therefore, before creating your next (or first) immersive 360VR ad, remember you can’t just rely on the technology alone, you need to plan out the creative you’ll use that will aid with initial engagement and then sustain that engagement so as to leverage the high engagement rates and brand recall that immersive 360 VR ads are proving to have.
Also published on Medium.