What brands need to know about VR

Specular Theory

The virtual reality industry is developing at a rapid pace, with advancements in technology being made on a weekly basis and the creative potential of this uniquely immersive medium being explored across the globe. With eight major tech companies releasing consumer headsets this year and top platforms such as Google and Facebook on board, brands and advertisers have a unique opportunity to capture a new and wider audience in a way that’s never been done before.

Here are a few things to think about to help you get started:

VR content is a different story. Many brands and agencies are used to mirroring the same content across platforms and optimizing the viewing formats for mobile, web, and television etc. This kind of approach is neither scalable nor effective with virtual reality. The best storytelling in VR is crafted specifically for the medium and cannot be replicated through a flat screen.

The time is now. It’s not a matter of if you start integrating VR into your content strategies, it’s a matter of when and now is the time to dive in and get started. Start by purchasing a headset or borrowing a friend’s. Order one for your office. This device is going to affect every single industry.

Experience is believing. You need to try everything and expand your VR palate. The more VR you experience, the better you’ll be able to discern the content that is exceptional from the mediocre. As more channels and content become available, you begin to recognize good and bad content. You need to give a wide variety of experiences and headsets a chance before completely scrapping the adaptation of the medium for a brand or client.

Once VR is incorporated, it’s important to realize that although the experiences are fairly short in length, the immersive nature of the medium means that the storytelling, technology and production schedules are tripled in scale. VR is challenging to construct from a technical point of view and also extremely difficult to tell a great story from a creative standpoint. The traditional tools and ways of thinking about storytelling simply don’t apply to this medium.

The Innovator’s Dilemma. With the face of changing markets or platforms, there is often a lack of willingness to pull budgets for emerging technologies and approaches. Brands and agencies can ultimately save themselves both R&D and production dollars by seeking out professional VR companies and finding the one that fits their unique needs. VR technology is evolving daily and having the experts that are immersed in the medium will allow for the highest level of technical execution and creative exploration. Collaborating with experts in the burgeoning medium positions you to create something that can actually break through the noise and make a greater impact.

Break the mold but don’t break the bank. VR is expensive to create but you don’t need a blockbuster budget to get in the game. It’s very hard to bid a movie without having a script or some type of breakdown. The same is true for VR and

the budget ranges reflect varying elements, mainly relating to the amount of post-production required. Cinematic live-action experiences are a great entry point into VR. For example, creating experiences that are fully CG or adding interactive/gaming elements will increase costs and require longer turnaround times. Mobile VR and 360 video (delivered on Google Cardboard, YouTube, Samsung Gear VR etc.) will be at the lower end. PC VR (HTC Vive, Oculus Rift etc.) will be at the higher end. If you want to create a special kiosk at a live-event or in a retail location and use higher-end hardware like HTC Vive you will need high-powered computers, more expensive hardware, backup stations, controllers etc. and this will be at the higher end.

Planning. Also keep in mind when you are planning your next campaign or event, the earlier you can bring VR partners into the conversation, the better. VR shoots can quickly become difficult and require a great deal of post-production based on what is shot and how it’s shot.

It’s time to think outside the box, literally. The world is not flat and our view shouldn’t be either. Virtual reality is an “anti-flat” form of entertainment and opens limitless possibilities to engage with viewers in ways previously inconceivable. VR creates first person memories that can be a very powerful tool for how brands reach and engage with consumers that is unlike any other medium.

Get excited. We are moving from an information age to an experience age and for the first time we can create first person memories (rather than watching an experience, we can actually live it) which is extremely powerful for brands.

Ryan Pulliam is CMO and co-founder of Specular Theory. She tweets @DigitalMediaPR

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