July 5, 2016 Leap into Virtual Reality

VR is huge. Like the whole world in your hands, huge. Virtual reality is taking the world by storm and really blowing people away. Multiple brands have jumped aboard the VR ship and the engaging experiences have thousands of people frantically searching for cardboard boxes to strap to their face. There are many ways to experience VR, but at its core, it is broken down to incredible expensive technology or an app on your phone with a cardboard headset.

VR gives you the ability to live out incredible fantasies you never thought were possible or makes you so dizzy you become nauseous. While far from perfect but it’s also in the very early stages of its life. VR was an idea since the old school View-Master toy from Mattel, but the first actual VR models started arriving in 2015, so we have a bit before they’re perfected.

Brands are struggling with this new breed of storytelling and need to adapt, because VR needs to be treated as a visual experience, but also remember that it is purely visual. For example, skydiving is a visual and physical experience. The air in your face, the popping of your ears, your hair in the wind. It’s an experience you can’t emulate through the experience. Yet research shows that audiences have an incredible 80% retention rate from VR experiences versus 20% retention from only reading the content. Transitively, skydiving is an experience that you’ll remember for far longer if you actually do it, rather than experiencing it through VR. This may seem like a large setback for VR, but this also a rare case, because if you’ve never been skydiving, VR is a perfect alternative to give you an idea, a moment, of what you may one day feel.

A few VR experiences have already been created to emulate real life and promote brands, yet since they’re so new, many of the ads have been given a pass in terms of lousy storytelling. As VR evolves, so must our storytelling so that we are able to encapsulate the increasingly hard to get attention span of consumers. In turn, this pushes agencies to conceive more elaborate forms of branded entertainment, that many brands will not be willing to take risks on.

Advertising in VR is still maturing, and with such a different take on storytelling, there will be a hurdle to get over because VR takes time. Brands are going to want the newest and greatest campaigns churned out instantly, but because of the production and planning of VR, they’ll take months to invent one experience.

Branded entertainment has taken over advertising and it’s molding what we perceive as ads into these grand story-driven experiences. Our entertainment is always evolving and now advertising has gained a new and very powerful tool in terms of reaching audiences. The retention rate of VR also displays how a well-done experience will boost positive brand awareness. VR’s popularity is surging and not showing signs of slowing down, so it’s a great step for advertising, as long as it doesn’t become too oversaturated with poorly created VR ads.