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‘It’s cool, but it’s not a game changer’: Adobe is testing VR ads, yet believes AR will be more valuable to marketers

Adobe Primetime is experimenting in the field of virtual reality marketing, demoing how a brand could potentially interrupt a VR experience with an immersive ad at this year’s Mobile World Congress. But interestingly – and contrary to the industry’s blue sky thinking futurists - its director of product marketing doesn’t believe this offering will change advertising as we know it, and instead thinks augmented reality is the realm in which marketers need to focus.

“I'm not sure that VR will change the advertising industry”, Campbell Foster told The Drum. “I think it's another screen. It's another way to communicate brand messages with consumers. But it's not revolutionary technology by any means. That's my personal opinion.”

Instead, he believes revolution is more likely to come in the form of AR, because of its natural interaction with commerce. “If you're in the store, for example, and you get an overlay that pops up and says: ‘Don't forget to buy cereal if you're out…and this is your favorite brand…Oh and it's $2 off…’ That's going to be extremely valuable for marketers and for consumers as well.

“VR ads that you'll see are really just a new way of doing a 30-second spot. It's not blowing the doors off of creativity. So I mean it's cool but it's not a game changer.”

So why, then, is Adobe looking at the VR world and “not doing anything” with AR? “We responded to what large distributors and broadcasters are looking to do,” said Foster. “And right now as they dip their toes in the water, they're leaning toward VR.”

A 180 view on VR

Adobe’s Demo – an experience in which wearer is transported to a cinema and surrounded by immersive Coca-Cola branding before their VR movie begins – is simply a possible answer to the brand’s question of “What could VR look like with advertisements? How do you balance the need to put in an ad with the need not to provide a really disruptive experience for consumers?”, according to Foster.

It’s a 180-degree, rather than 360-degree, advert, partly because of the high bandwidth and processor and network requirements needed to stage the latter. Adobe itself handles the software by providing a “layer” on top of the Oculus programming, and also now offers its Creative Cloud Premiere and After Effects users the option of editing in both 360 and 180.

Foster believes mass adoption in VR will be led by the software manufacturers of games, as well as the hardware manufacturers (such as Samsung and HTC) which are already in the space. He also reckons media companies will play a part, particularly those with a stake in sports.

“There were some experiments at the Super Bowl that did not work out the way they had planned, which goes to show you how difficult it is to pull off some of this stuff. But as you can imagine in live sports in VR – where you can look around and look around the field – there's a lot of opportunities to do really cool and creative stuff.”

Alongside experiences such as the Coca-Cola cinema experience, Foster envisages a sports VR scenario where “you can replace ads [painted onto the ground] in the field of play with individually targeted ads”. He explained: “So you might see an ad for Coca-Cola and I would see an ad for Pepsi, or you would see a car ad I would see a beer ad.”

Creatives might not need to book onto that VR-stitching course just yet, though; adoption won’t be a fast process. “I think the time frame for a lot of this stuff is two three years out,” Foster said. “We're not quite there yet.”

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Katie Deighton

Katie Deighton is The Drum’s senior reporter - creative and video based in London. She produces, films, presents and edits the title’s editorial video output, including series such as On The Scene, Ad Breakers and Why I Left Advertising, and manages its coverage of the creative sector. She also reports on the intersection between politics and marketing, as well as the third sector and fashion.

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