While mobile is currently the darling of advertisers, many are already talking about the next big thing—virtual reality (VR).
In a recent 2017 PPC predictions post over at Search Engine Journal, Lisa Raehsler reminded advertisers to keep VR on their radar, too. Though, she ads that the technology won’t become mainstream in 2017, as advertisers are only just now getting their minds wrapped around mobile.
Here at SearchForce we recently brought up the VR topic ourselves, highlighting how it’s at once exciting and interesting to everyone, yet a mystery that users and advertisers alike are uncertain how to approach. We discussed how advertising in that space would require a shift in thinking from crafting video frames to entire scenes and worlds, and can overcome some of of mobile ad challenges we face now.
Though we know we have a long way to go before we can fully embrace VR advertising, let’s go ahead and look at some of the possibilities and pitfalls of this newer medium.
Current Happenings in VR
In September of 2016, IAB released a report looking at what’s currently happening in the VR space, and talked about some publishers and advertisers currently using VR.
In 2015, the New York Times launched a VR app, which turned out to be the publication’s most successful app ever. Advertisers that have used it include Cadillac, Hilton and Ford.
One way the NYT drove its successful launch was by distributing more than one million Google Cardboard viewers to home delivery and digital subscribers. Now, users spend an average of more than six minutes on that app, and 58 percent of them return month after month.
Although a lot of VR content is pre-recorded, Fox Sports and Turner Sports focus on live content. Fox Sports works with NextVR and the Daytona 500 to create live experiences and go beyond 360 video (which lets the viewer sit at the center of a spherical shot, and see video in every direction from one viewpoint). Turner Sports partnered with Oculus to give users court-side views and virtual scoreboards.
At the 2016 SXSW conference, the McDonald’s brand participated in an immersive VR event in which consumers donned VR goggles and hand-held controllers, then “stepped into and decorated” the inside of a virtual Happy Meal box.
Publishers that IAB talked to reported significant advertiser interest in VR, whether on its own or as part of a larger digital campaign. It’s an exciting new way for publishers and advertisers to be creative together: The advertisers are asking publishers for more input, which means more publisher-branded content in the VR realm. The ideas, and their solutions, are increasingly complex.
CNBC spoke with some VR experts, and reported on why advertisers and consumers are so enjoying early VR: It’s all about the experience. This is why tech, auto, soda, shoe and food brands are among the top adopters. People have the chance to explore experiences in a new way before committing to the purchase. This could become especially valuable to travel and transportation brands in the hospitality sector.
The Pitfalls of Virtual Reality
The CNBC piece and IAB report also went into a few of the drawbacks of VR. Concerns include engagement and costs.
IAB highlights that VR is still a niche industry. The equipment and software might be getting cheaper, but it’s still relatively costly, and tough to get someone to spend the time to fully engage.
Further, there’s always that chance that high expectations won’t be met or, worse, users will become physically nauseous during the experience, hampering any future adventures.
CNBC reports question how well the personal experiences of VR can be relayed to an audience. For example, how well can one person’s VR adventure be shared on Facebook? It’s likely going to fall short.
What Does the Future Hold?
IAB asked some experts about their VR predictions for the next 24 months. The following predictions may be of interest to advertisers:
- VR is not going to be like 3DTV, because it has a broader constituency and much greater investment (hundreds of millions by Q1 2016).
- Device maturation will reduce costs and facilitate scale. Future devices will renew lost interest as they become more advanced, ultimately driving down cost.
- We are just scratching the surface of advertising opportunities. We’ll likely see more brands trying 360 video, as well as VR coming into the space of 2D billboards, video and TV.
Things move fast in technology and advertising. Even though many advertisers are just getting the hang of the mobile medium, it’s time to start thinking about where your audience may be next—it’s likely to be virtual reality.