The past few years have been a constant revelation for the marketing and advertising industry with new avenues for branding coming up every few years. From buzzwords like digital, mobile, social, and content marketing, we now have the emergence of VR. Virtual Reality has created a whole new immersive relationship between the brand and the customer, something that marketers have been striving to achieve for years.

The precursor to the widespread interest in VR ads came from the booming social video marketing industry. The number of videos shared on social media outlets increased three times in the last one year alone, and businesses began actively promoting their video content to increase brand awareness and recall. It was a small step from this to 360 videos and VR ads.

As we have explained earlier, despite the potential that enterprises saw with VR ads, there were certain challenges that marketers had to tackle.

But with platform wars becoming non existent and industry standards coming into place, the biggest hurdle to mainstream adoption has gone away. What’s interesting to note is that even before this was announced, 2016 saw a lot of brands creating 360 videos as a part of their marketing strategy. We have found that with many brands that we have worked with, there is a clear incentive to invest in 360 video. They all want to enjoy the early adopter advantage.

What this has done for content marketing is unprecedented. While most new mediums take a little time to establish themselves as viable marketing outlets, some brands that used 360 video ads in 2016 saw a whopping 30% CTR. This is highly promising. Especially since marketers have been struggling to bring up the industry average engagement rate of 1% for mobile ads and 0.4% for desktop ads. This statistic becomes even more significant when you factor in that 360 video became uploadable on platforms like Youtube and Facebook as late as March 2016.

While initially the use of 360 videos was restricted to the tech industry, 2016 saw different industries experimenting with VR ads.

Automobile giants like Volvo, Jaguar, Honda and Nissan have revolutionised not just content marketing, but also helped to transform the whole area of marketing from a cost intensive effort for enterprises into a lead generating mechanism. Since the engagement is higher, the potential to close a sale is also greater.

Education, hospitality, medicine and fashion were some of the other industries that incorporated 360 videos into their advertising strategy. When a new marketing technology gains traction, brands have the opportunity to capture a new kind of moment with shoppers, to create a wow factor that leaves a lasting impression, and establish themselves as leaders in their industries

The other huge development for brands that invested in VR advertising was that simply by creating a VR ad, they were getting exposure in a variety of other media. For instance, Volvo reports reaching 238 million media impressions, including being featured in PCMag and FastCoCreate. Marriot too got featured on both Wired and the Travel and Leisure magazine. This is a content marketing dream. One strategy creating a domino effect and enabling exposure to multiple audiences and opening up unforeseen potential for cross promotion.

Besides the benefits for the companies investing in VR ads, the whole advertising industry has benefitted in a big way through VR ads. The emotional and almost visceral experience that VR ads are creating has resulted in a slew of investments into VR advertising startups and a whole cottage industry that has sprung up around VR meaning there will be new avenues for content marketers to explore everyday.

Economically the potential for VR ads is staggering. If a brand is willing to invest over 4 million for a 30 second commercial during the Super Bowl to engage with the audience, imagine what the investments would be when the tech matures and the experience becomes even more immersive? And this means that content marketers will become valuable assets for companies, strengthening the advertising industry as a whole.

While VR advertising is new, it retains at its core the most significant aspect of content marketing. The ability to establish ‘connect’. But the defining aspect of VR ads is the element of control: your audience feels like they can move through the experience instead of being a passive viewer. This is what makes it truly compelling.

This past year, VR advertising and 360 videos have set the stone to transform the way we market products. Great creative storylines and innovative concepts will help this medium truly elevate content marketing into a huge force in the way a brand is perceived. Here’s to more success for the industry in 2017!

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