What Virtual Reality Means For Advertisers in 2017

Virtual reality is still in its infancy, but the world of technology is moving faster than ever. Over just the last year, searches for virtual reality or VR have quadrupled. How is this going to affect advertisers in the coming years? It’s impossible to deny that this is going to have far reaching effects on all media, especially as the technology becomes cheaper and more accessible.

There was a time when virtual reality was nothing more than a plot point on science fiction television series. Now, high quality mobile devices have delivered VR right into homes. There are systems that cost hundreds of dollars, but there are also systems that cost less than fifty bucks. If someone can afford to buy a phone that supports virtual reality technology, they can probably afford to buy the tech that they need to turn that mobile device into a VR machine.

All videos on YouTube can already be viewed in a virtual reality space, making it the largest source of VR content to date. This is what most people, especially those with the cheaper systems, are using their virtual reality devices for right now, though many are branching out into creating art, watching movies, and playing video games. There is no experience as immersive as virtual reality, making it a huge draw for both cinephiles and gamers.

What does VR promise?

VR is to our time as the motion picture was to its point of origin. It offers a totally new, immersive experience unlike anything else. But it goes beyond what film is able to offer. When you watch film, you are just watching, you are not actually in the scene. Virtual reality promises something bigger. It promises actually being in the scene. There are new cameras and filming techniques that make it possible for you to film every angle of a room, allowing individuals to sit or stand wherever they want to be in the space, to see all its angles.

In the short term, it means being able to get better seats at concerts and sporting events. You can visit areas of the world you would never otherwise be able to visit, from the comfort of your own home. You can go and do things you would never otherwise be able to do. It provides a more immersive experience in every way. And some time down the road, the technology might develop that allows the viewer to become a participant in the scene, to be able to change and shape it however they please, in an even more in depth way than any video game could provide.

What does this mean for advertising and marketing?

There are obviously numerous and incredible applications for virtual reality in a wide variety of fields. What does it mean, however, for marketing? Virtual reality puts a focus on immersion and on participation. Especially with 360-degree video added to the virtual reality space, it means that viewers have more control over the story.

This means that advertisers are going to have to start thinking about not just creating a linear story that can be told by frames, but a world that their viewers can explore. When viewers are actually inside of the advertisement, they are more likely to feel connected but they are also more likely to sense the insincerity of the advertisement, too. More than ever before, it’s important for marketing messages to actually have a message. And right now, more than third of consumers say that they do not want to see any ads in the VR space.

And that’s understandable. Today’s consumer already hates being advertised to. They are savvier than ever and they hate feeling like a brand is trying to shove a product or service down their throat. An advertisement in virtual reality will feel like being consumed by marketing material even more than just an ad that pops up when you are browsing a website or playing a game on your phone.

This doesn’t mean, however, there is no way for advertisers to use virtual reality in a way that consumers will actually engage with and enjoy. Here are a few questions that brands should ask themselves as they start to consider building advertisements for the world of virtual reality:

  1. Does your VR ad give your viewers an experience that they would not be otherwise be able to have?

Having something in virtual reality just for the sake of virtual reality is not a good enough reason to use this technology. The subject should really take advantage of everything that the medium has to offer. For example, a tour of your production facility might be a good option, if they are really given the option to explore and see how your business works. In recent years, Google Street View has tried to expand by allowing business owners to submit virtual tours, though this is not currently set for VR viewing. It’s a safe bet that this is an upcoming expansion for the service.

2. How will VR help your customers get a better idea of your production?

You can use virtual reality to give your customers a much better feel for your product and what it can offer them, especially if most of your customers are online shopping. They should be able to see the item in their real size, color, and shape while shopping. Consumers have noted that this would be a huge improvement over current online shopping methods, giving them an experience that is more like shopping in the store, without actually having to visit the store. This would be a great option for a wide variety of industries, from clothing stores to car dealerships.

3. Are there actually things to look at in the environment?

Is the space that you are going to be filming in actually going to be interesting to look at for the viewers? If you there is nothing else to look at in the shooting space except for the product, there’s probably no reason to invest in the virtual reality. A blank white room with a product sitting in the middle does little to take advantage of the medium, while a concert or sporting event provides plenty of ways to utilize virtual reality.

4. Is there something to see beyond the initial realization of being in virtual reality?

An effective virtual reality advertisement or piece of marketing content will keep the viewer hooked long after they get over how cool it is to be in a virtual reality space. For example, a visual scavenger hunt is going to be much more engaging and interesting than just dumping them in a room with your product and letting them look at it from all sides. If you want them to stick around for more than a minute, you need to actually give them something to do or watch.

Virtual reality is still developing. It’s hard to say what it is going to become of it in the future or what new and innovative ways marketers and advertisers will develop to really utilize what the technology has to offer. Right now, it’s important to not just convert your filmed advertisements into virtual reality content. It’s important to really embrace the medium and use it for its own set of benefits. What benefits or hindrances do you see for advertisers working with VR in the near future? Leave your thoughts in the comments.