5 things to consider before you advertise in virtual reality

By J Barbush

Virtual reality is one of advertising’s most buzzed-about tactics — even the NCAA championship game had a headset component. With new technologies and an influx of capital to the medium, it’s now possible to create innovative, multisensory experiences. But while it’s great to be first to use something breakthrough to catch people’s attention, it’s important to understand that value only comes from using it in a thoughtful, strategic way.

Let’s remember that virtual reality is a less visceral form of reality. It gives us a sense of space, but, at this point, it’s not a true replacement for the real thing. So, if you are like me and decide to venture into the field of virtual reality, here are five things to consider, as you blaze the trail for everyone else:

1. Everything is exposed. Working in a 360° environment requires a completely different approach than a traditional linear landscape. Besides the camera, all equipment is exposed. So you have no light boxes, no special rigs, no bounce boards. VR does not give you the luxury you get from traditional filming techniques, where you can hide equipment and frame light. In VR, light and exposure need to be in perfect harmony. Ultimately, you’re going to need to be okay with leaving the C-stands at home, and having your product or subject live on its own.

2. Keep the editorial simple. Because the content is so stripped down, it’s best to keep it clean and simple. Don’t cut or fade to black or have unnecessary transitions, and be smart with titles or overlays, because they bend and warp. That breaks the narrative and, for a viewer, it removes the control, which is crucial for a successful VR experience. Create an experience that can be seamlessly navigated at the pace of the viewer.

3. Don’t forget about the “reality” in virtual reality. Sounds, movements, shifts in space — these are all things that guide our attention in real life, and you want to use them as much as possible in VR land as well. Yes, VR is about discovery, but you also want to provide some sort of narrative path users can follow. The things we hear, why we look in a certain way, objects entering our field of vision are all prompts that direct our attention. So when we create the virtual version, we need to make sure we provide those same attention directives.

4. Transform the imagination. The best experiences are ones that are transformative and engaging — where you can do things or go places you can’t in real life. Our lizard brain puts sight above all, so it’s easy to get drawn in and even feel an adrenaline rush from these headsets.

5. VR is an infant. You’re dealing with an infant. The infrastructure, pipes, and cameras are in the early stages. So you need to get a little creative and a bit brazen. You need to be okay with the limitations VR presents, while leveraging the ample opportunities the new medium offers. If you nurture VR and understand what you’ve gotten yourself into, common sense, technique, and a bit of emotional intelligence can help you create the best of what’s out there.

Ready to jump into VR? Remember: This is just a start, and technology is changing by the minute. To get us, as an industry, to where we need to be in VR takes bravery, risks and, above all, great people who make great content. Just make sure VR fits before you try it on. There’s nothing worse than using technology for technology’s sake.

J Barbush is VP, Creative Social Media Director at advertising agency RPA.

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Originally published at venturebeat.com on April 17, 2016.

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