Sunday 23 October 2016

Virtual reality: Advertising in a world that isn't quite our own

Published 19/06/2016 | 02:30

With Google, Sony and Facebook all very alive in the race to secure the VR market these companies are seeing this as the next major growth market (Stock picture)
With Google, Sony and Facebook all very alive in the race to secure the VR market these companies are seeing this as the next major growth market (Stock picture)

Getting a good ad campaign across in a world littered by distractions and shortening attention spans can force some innovative thinking from marketing firms.

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Advertising in realities that have either been created entirely afresh from the ground up (virtual reality) or putting a spin on the environment around you (augmented) brings a host of new challenges and opportunities.

What we've seen from marketeers in recent years has been a blurring of the lines between original content and advertising.

The mix and match of native advertising in amongst TV shows through product placement or sponsored articles certainly have made it trickier for the consumer to pick out an ad.

Advertisers will now have to enter a new landscape where the lines may be easier to muddle, but they're going to have to do it all over again.

So what is this new landscape media folk are looking at?

First and foremost there are the two aforementioned realities augmented (AR) and virtual (VR).

Out of the two, VR, has become more widespread and commonly known, however we may find that AR becomes something we use more so in our daily lives.

Earlier in the year, MasterCard invited the members of the press out to its Irish headquarters in Dublin.

Amongst the host of new payment methods on the horizon, including selfie pay and retina scan, was a look at how items become much more engaging in a world that isn't quite our own.

There are times when you can't help but marvel at the heights technology is reaching.

This was one of those times. Strap on a pair of AR goggles and all of sudden the items around you are alive and available to buy.

The example shown on the day was a box of golf balls. Nothing but basic in real life but with goggles on a virtual golf ball began to bounce atop the box. Suddenly there's a whole new way in which products can vie for your attention.

You can expect VR use to spiral upward over the next year or so through the likes of Samsung Gear VR, the Oculus Rift, and the HTC Vive.

With Google, Sony and Facebook all very alive in the race to secure the VR market these companies are seeing this as the next major growth market.

Apple have remained surprisingly quiet in the area despite having patent filings on both VR and AR that date back 10 years.

However, Apple patents a lot of things that don't come to fruition, so despite looking into the area it may not pull the trigger on it.

The sector is already starting to get very clogged up with manufacturers getting on board and advertisers are wasting no time in joining the party.

Amongst the many benefits to advertisers is the undying attention their product will receive in a VR advert. There's no looking away and in the short-term it will take some time for the novelty to wear off.

Speaking in an interview with Business Insider at the end of last year, New York Times chief executive Mark Thompson described its early experiences with VR as "an attractive, profitable exercise for us to be involved in".

The media boss went on to say that it was an area in which "The Gray Lady (the New York Times) needs to pull up its skirt and start running".

The day to day use of VR really remains to be seen. When we get home from work will we be whipping on a headset for the evening to take us somewhere more pleasant?

What is happening in the area is more and more brands are dipping their toe in what is an exciting unknown world. Volvo, for example, can offer smartphone users with a headset a virtual reality test drive of its new XC90 jeep.

More importantly there is now an apparent medium-wide advertising platform. Late last year VirtualSky was launched, a first of its kind virtual reality network.

AirPush, the company behind VirtualSky, has reported intense levels of interest in its platform from "most major agencies". The intriguing thing behind the demand for the platform is that this is such an unknown, yet advertisers seem convinced, sold and ready to invest.

What will be interesting is the content these advertising agencies produce. Regardless of the medium, poor content is poor content and regardless of what method it comes through the foundations of good advertising will likely hold.

These new ads will need to connect with its audience and be both memorable and easily recalled and with most major companies sprinting towards VR, standing out may once again the biggest challenge of all facing marketeers.

Sunday Indo Business

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