Engagement and Visibility Key to Effective Product Placement in Virtual Reality Videos
This summary originally appeared in the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications’ Research and Insights site.
Virtual reality (VR) videos that offer high engagement and visual prominence can be an effective environment for product placement, according to new research published in the Journal of Business Research.
The research from Huan Chen, Advertising assistant professor at the UF College of Journalism and Communications, and Ye Wang, Communications Studies associate professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, is among the first of its kind comparing VR videos with websites, traditional films and digital games.
The popularity and availability of VR videos is rapidly increasing, with more than one million subscribers to YouTube’s VR channels. While marketers have experimented with product placement in VR videos, little is known empirically if it is an effective strategy for brands. Chen and Wang sought a way to study how and whether dialogic engagement (the interconnectedness of engagement and dialogue) impacts the effectiveness of visual product placement in VR videos.
The authors measured dialogic engagement (high and low) and visual prominence (high and low) against characteristics such as brand favorability, brand interest, brand consideration, aided brand recall and interactive experience. Four VR videos were selected from YouTube and edited so that two of the videos exhibited high or low dialogic engagement and the other two had low or high visual product prominence.
Each participant was randomly assigned an edited VR video to view — in a private listing section of YouTube — and then given a link to complete an online survey. Of the 186 study participants, 82 percent were female and 18 percent male. All participants were between the ages of 18 and 30.
The authors found that visual prominence of a product and dialogic engagement “had significant main effects on brand recall.” Likewise, prominent product placement in VR videos were recalled better than subtle product placement. Not surprisingly, the interaction of prominent product placement and dialogic engagement was important in brand recall.
In discussing the implications of their research, the authors observed that visual product placement in VR videos is akin to that in digital games, i.e., “high engagement with branded products or brand identifiers has positive effects on users’ experience and perception.” Therefore, highly engaging visual placement can be quite effective in interactive media. In addition, with prominent placement, brand recall was positively associated with dialogic engagement.
Overall, prominent visual product placement that, “affords full interactivity” and dialogic engagement, “maximizes brand exposure.” Alternatively, Chen and Wang noted that with subtle visual placement viewers may not be able to recognize the placement and therefore not have the chance to engage with it.
In addition, viewers perceived control of the VR experience has, “significant effects on the interest in embedded brand, and the willingness to consider using or buying it.” Engagement with prominent placement, then, is the best strategy for companies since it enhances the consumers’ experience and hence brand exposure.
The authors recognized the limitations of their study. The participants skewed heavily female, and the selection of material was from existing VR videos. Participants also used a variety of devices to watch the videos (computer, tablet, smartphone) that might impact results. Future studies in a laboratory environment could prove useful in controlling the exposure environment. Finally, new research needs to include both aided and unaided recall to explore possible differences.
The full study is available here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0148296319300189