Virtual reality (VR) is all the rage, as a number of premium publishers are jumping on the bandwagon to prepare and many media powerhouses and film studios are placing big bets on VR with large scale investments.

It is only a matter of time before brand spend follows suit and moves to VR, so what should marketers be doing to prepare now?

Go beyond the norm
One thing is for certain: 30-second ads will not be the most efficient way for brands to get on board. Instead, more branded entertainment with chunks of VR sponsored content will be on the horizon and more seamless brand integrations within stories will emerge. VR is especially suited for the latter scenario, as it allows viewers to decide how they see content. Brands could trigger engagement by allowing viewers to interact and zoom in—telescopically—to experience more in-depth branded content and then zoom back out to the main storyline.

This ‘next generation of interactive video’ may very well take branded entertainment to a whole new level with immersive storytelling. Imagine LG showcasing a new line of mobile devices in a video ad with hotspots. Viewers could engage by zooming into one of the phones to play with the device via a realistic, 360-degree model of the phone and even watch a video shot with that new device, thereby zooming into an entirely new storyline within the ad. VR is the quintessential medium for this type of captivating content and brands that succeed to connect with consumers within this newfound VR world will dream up immersive experiences rather than attempting to work VR into existing campaigns.

Many brands are already tinkering in branded VR entertainment. While the traditional big spenders in storytelling—Hollywood studios—sit on the sidelines to experiment with VR, marketers are diving in head first to create immersive ‘bursts’ of content that will help boost a brand’s story. That’s a massive shift.

Make it immersive
Virtual reality, by definition, intensifies the impression of reality. Because all of the viewer’s senses are heightened, content that delivers fully immersive experiences will be in high demand. Anything that makes the viewer feel as though they’re actually inside the video—from sitting courtside at a basketball game to watching a professor lecture from the front row of a classroom—will capture interest. In theory, the more a viewer perceives that they are physically present in a certain situation, the more the experience may feel like a human memory once completed. Imagine how this could drive brand recall.

Fatigue from advertising within VR will also be amplified. The technologies that make interactive features possible for flat, internet-based online video are working well now but the experience could really come alive if and when it is developed with VR in mind. At the very least, tapping buttons in the VR world should be rewarded with more immersive content. Better yet, head tracking will signify engagement more than any other measured metric.

Yes, branded entertainment and VR are practically made for each other but the combination of branded entertainment, VR, and interactive video (including everything we can now do plus all its rising possibilities) will transcend into marketing success beyond any marketer’s wildest dreams. The key for marketers will be to focus heavily on creating the best user experience possible.

Think native VR
Even if marketers create amazing VR content, there’s still a fundamental discovery problem. Users currently have to download several different apps within their VR gear to see virtual reality content, which makes zero sense for brands. Instead, VR content will likely go native and appear as playlists within publishing infrastructures. For example, audiences visiting FOX Sports online may soon see a dedicated menu option or channel with extreme sports VR content from brands like GoPro or Red Bull. This may be a combination of original and sponsored content.

As the VR content viewing experience improves, monetization tactics will most certainly follow. Marketers will either support an ad-free SVOD subscription model, a la Netflix, or an AVOD (ad supported video on demand) strategy, or both. Copying and pasting the way video content is monetized on desktop will definitely not work.

Bottom line: This is just the beginning for VR. Technology is improving every day and monetization is right around the corner. As publishers and media giants prime the pump, marketers need to start thinking about how they can best reward viewers for paying attention.

Comment