USA Today Network launches VR news show and ad unit

USA Today Network has launched a VR news show with a VR ad unit.

USA Today Network has released its first ad unit in VR, or what it calls the cubemercial, in a new weekly VR show, VRtually There, in partnership with Toyota.

According to a press release, the VR ad unit uses 2D assets in a VR environment and places the viewer in a cube surrounded with a brand’s creative assets for a maximum of 15 seconds, creating “an immersive experience between the consumer and the brand unlike any other.”

The so-called cubemercial, which features Toyota’s 2017 Camry in its debut, runs between the first and second segment of three original content pieces in VRtually There. The first episode includes an aircraft carrier, highliners in Sedona, Arizona and Albuquerque’s hot air balloon festival and runs about seven and a half minutes.

In addition to a cubemercial, sponsor Toyota is also featured in sixty seconds of branded VR content. A rep said Toyota is the sponsor of the first two episodes, but did not disclose future sponsors.

The VR news show, which USA Today Network said it puts viewers into the story for a first-person perspective, will be released Thursdays at 2pm ET. The segments are filmed and produced by USA Today Network journalists and are available via the USA Today app, as well as within the VR Stories app and, which USA Today Network said has exclusivity for the first sixty days from each episode’s release.

The network also said the show is best viewed in VR on a mobile device using Google Cardboard, but is also available for viewing on devices, tablets and computers in 360.

USA Today Network hired Emmy-winning producer and director David Hamlin as executive producer of the series. Hamlin hails from National Geographic and the Network noted he has created over 100 award-winning specials, series and new media projects for the National Geographic Channel, NBC, TBS and PBS.

USA Today Network said the weekly show will allow its journalists to deliver VR content to more than 110 million monthly users. USA Today Network said the series also provides new advertising opportunities for brand partners with its cubemercial.

“USA Today Network has been committed to inventing VR advertising and virtually branded content experiences, which have been built seamlessly into the show’s experience through the organization’s creative studio, Get Creative,” the release added.

And, in a statement, Lisa McQueen, media manager for Toyota Motor Sales, Inc., said, “We believe in creating amazing experiences for our guests, so we’re excited to help launch USA Today Network’s innovative VR show, bringing incredible virtual reality experiences to its audience. [USA Today Network’s] approach to bold storytelling and use of new mediums aligns with our brand and our creative approach for the new 2017 Toyota Camry.”

USA Today Network includes USA Today and 109 local media brands. It is owned by Gannett.

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