Vox Pop: Will virtual reality be the marketing industry's saviour?

By Naomi Taylor | Client Services Manager

Mashbo

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The Drum Network article

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June 10, 2016 | 11 min read

The attraction of virtual reality for brands is obvious. Bringing the reality of their story to the consumer through personalised, dream like worlds, brands can access the consumer's mind with no other distractions. VR is offering a whole new world of immersion and as a consequence, audience engagement. In light of the latest issue of The Drum's virtual reality issue, the Drum Network asks it's members; will VR be the saviour of the marketing industry?

Matt Leach, head of development, Thinking Juice

Virtual reality is not the future; it’s now and ready to save empty marketing tactics. VR gives brand managers the opportunity to connect with their audience through expressive interaction and not leave them wondering "what/why/who even made that ad?!” Nike, Redbull and Amazon are already implementing strategic marketing solutions that have VR at the core of their execution. Be it audio books turned into animated virtual reality films, or sporting events viewed in a whole new perspective, the VR movement is here, offering an unparalleled way to engage.

VR provides an opportunity to create memorable experiences that ‘stick’. You can reach innovation enthusiasts and tell a story in a far more distinctive way than most traditional oversaturated channels can, if used intelligently. Better still, the hardware doesn’t have to be that costly; Google Cardboard is one example of utilising the technology available at a low, reasonable cost. It’s literally a piece of cardboard to pair up to your customer’s smartphone.

Perhaps the next trade show or showcase event you host could have 360-surround video, simulating the experience for those that can't make it? Maybe your next Facebook App can offer VR engagement to compete in a competition? I would recommend taking advantage of the growing market and produce your own cardboard headset. Not only would this be great in place of traditional marketing outreach, but you will contribute to the growing VR market. Forget the mugs, VR is now.

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Barney Worfolk-Smith, business director, That Lot

10 years ago I worked for technology site, CNET and spent a lot of time around shiny, consumer tech. The ‘Diffusion of Innovations’ was all about innovators, laggards and how fast a new technology was adopted. The gulf of adoption is the chasm between visionaries who have huge expectations of a technology and the early majority who say, “So what? What's in it for me?”

This is where VR is. In fact, this is exactly what this piece is addressing. Will it cross the chasm and reach mass adoption, thereby delivering a useful and scalable communications platform for brands? It might but right now I think it’s technology looking for an application. Here are the reasons I don’t think VR will save marketing.

The barrier to ownership in the form of a Google cardboard viewer is less than a fiver. If that hasn’t yet led to ubiquity, then there isn’t sufficient value in it for the user. I think that by the time it does start to gain any traction (mainly through immersive video like Vrse, for example) the interfaces will have moved on. On that note...Google Glass failed, mainly because it was asking too much of us in behavioural change. VR is even more so. Look at the fella walking down the road looking up to the sky with a huge headset on. We just aren’t ready yet.

In my view, to become mass market - and therefore useful for marketers - new tech will need to mirror what we do already, not ask for this much. Without sounding too much like the bleeding edge innovator, I’d be keeping an eye on Magic Leap and other AR. VR feels like a short term stepping stone to that.

Alice Malthouse, programmatic account executive, NMPi

Virtual reality is becoming increasingly available to the masses. Through the purchase of a cardboard headset and a smartphone app, anyone can easily access this once mysterious world.

Whilst virtual reality is often associated with the gaming industry, it could also revolutionise the marketing industry. Virtual reality provides a different user experience than traditional marketing. On wearing the headsets, the user fully submerges themselves into an experience which demands their full attention and prevents the user from being distracted. Virtual reality also requires the input of bodily movement to create a rich and immersive experience. Thereby the level of involvement is vastly different from traditional methods.

Unlike more common marketing methods, virtual reality is a novel experience for many, evoking emotions of excitement and joy in the user. The positive emotions that the use of this new technology creates, may arouse the desire for the user to share this positive experience with others. This sharing may occur through word of mouth or through online mediums and would provide brands with a secondary boost of publicity. Although this social sharing effect may only remain as long as the hype, it is something which should be taken advantage of by brands who want to keep ahead of the curve.

Daniel Robey, founder and CEO, Think Jam

What are we saving marketing from? Today’s industry is full of opportunity for brands to utilise technology and engage audiences. We can’t stand still. We have to keep up with the rising demands of modern living. It is our responsibility as marketers to keep trying new things, keep taking advantage of the tools available and keep challenging the status quo, to create fresh experiences. The role virtual reality plays, is not the saviour of marketing, but the amplifier. VR will enrich marketing as part of its continued evolution, playing a strong role as an extension of a brand or product, putting the audience at the heart of the entertainment. It’s tangible, exciting, interactive and heavily connected with mobile.

Marketing is about creating experiences. VR creates another dimension to an experience; not to mention that when in a headset, you have the complete, undivided attention of the individual. VR adds real value long term if it's used on the right product, at the right time, targeted at the right audience. There are currently lots of gimmicks being teased to add fun, however the game changers have not arrived yet. There are a few big apps coming out over the next few months, which will change everything about how VR is consumed and used. It has been predicted that over 12 million virtual reality headsets will be sold in 2017, so what are we all waiting for?

Joe Hopper, senior social strategist, RAPP UK

I’m afraid not but it might just change it.

For the time being, VR is still totally weird. There isn’t a consistent experience that brands can disrupt (although this might change with the arrival of PlayStation VR). We have to raise awareness first, hold consumers’ hands through a series of clicks and downloads, book some time with them when they’re free (and alone) to don the goggles.

It’s a bit of a faff and that means only the highly engaged will bother. Given how small and specialised this group will be, the scope of the opportunity is limited to those who will benefit from spending an awful lot of money to deliver an experience to a select few.

Limited consumer adoption isn’t the end of the world and it’s easy to imagine a time when that might change. The real challenge is that successful work will require a new creative and strategic mindset. The centre of focus within your brand’s VR experience should be diffuse and discovered serendipitously. That’s worlds away from your common-or-garden TV spot, your OOH, press, emails, display – everything. It’s not a call to action; it’s Easter Eggs.

Your ATL agency shouldn’t be planning your VR experience, Punchdrunk should.

I’m optimistic and excited by the idea of VR playrooms allowing for ‘hands on’ experience with products, enriched in real time with peer-to-peer conversation. But until such a time as donning a VR headset is as common as checking your phone, Virtual Reality is likely to remain the preserve of an elite few.

Gavin Sherratt, managing director, Studio Mashbo

VR is an amazing tool, but will it save marketing? No! Good, engaging content will save marketing. The novelty of VR will initially attract audiences, but people want education or entertainment beyond the experience of a new content delivery platform. Marketers need to think beyond the device and create compelling campaigns that truly connect with their target audience. VR doesn’t change the rules. But it does give us another medium to work with.

Baydr Yadallee, managing partner, Hi Mum! Said Dad

Putting aside the bigger question of whether marketing needs “saving”, I don’t see VR playing a starring role in its future. VR is on the agenda for brand marketers and agencies, and with good reason - the technology is impressive and for those who have experienced it find it truly immersive. There’s definitely a magic moment where VR provides an experience, unlike anything that’s gone before (other than actually being there, of course). It has lots of practical and powerful uses for brands, although not at scale - and this is key.

VR will never have the ubiquity of something mobile or TV as it requires you to put on a headset attached to a computer, or slot your phone into a viewer before you’re whisked away to another reality. That could be the most incredible experience, such as walking on the moon - but to take advantage of that, you need to shut out the rest of the world around you. For that reason, VR will never become a big part of our lives because it takes us out of our current context and reality in the way those other mediums don’t.

Yes, the technology could change and the cost will come down, but the concept behind VR won't change: taking you from your actual reality to an alternate or better one. Unless we see a huge shift in human behaviour where that becomes the norm, VR’s destined to become a welcome addition to marketing, but not its saviour.

Rich Henderson, senior digital account manager, JJ Marketing

As Adrian Gans put it in his argument in the recent edition of The Drum, VR has its place in marketing. For the gaming industry you’d be foolish to ignore its capabilities as it is the technology the sector has been waiting for. The same can also be said of the automotive industry.

There is obvious potential for VR in an automotive brand’s marketing strategy but it is also increasingly being used in the design and build stages, as with Ford and BMW. So, arguably, it could completely transform both marketing and the automotive sector when we reach a point where it is both financially and feasibly possible for the average consumer to fully spec their own car using VR.

VR was always going to be used in marketing. Combining the technology with experiential, social and digital, among others, you are immersing and capturing your audience in an entirely new way and opening up huge potential for creativity. VR signals the move towards the next level of connecting brands with customers acting as another tool for marketers on this journey of connectivity.

Marketing is a constantly evolving discipline. It’s adapt or die. And VR is yet another innovation that enables us to think bigger and create.

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We are a software development consultancy.

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Hello. We are Thinking Juice.

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Shareable. Original. Arresting. We provide great content to brands and broadcasters to help them grow audiences and cut through on social.

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Hi Mum! Said Dad is a digital product and innovation studio.

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Think Jam is an award-winning specialist entertainment marketing agency, proven to deliver communications strategy, consultancy and content creation to global clients across film, TV, gaming, the arts and publishing.

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NMPi is an international, digital marketing agency with offices in the UK, Netherlands.  Switzerland and Australia. We have over 14 years of experience delivering market-leading, global strategies across Paid Search, Display, Paid Social and Analytics.

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RAPP is a global, data-driven creative community that builds direct, meaningful and high-value relationships between brands and people. At RAPP, with our unrivalled depth of expertise in first-party data, we’ve been observing and cataloguing real people’s lives for 50 years. In today’s world the balance of power has shifted, and customers are in control, which is why we put people and their preferences at the heart of the brand experience. With a talent base of more than 1,600 professionals in 18 offices, we help brands grow the value of real people by understanding what really matters and creating experiences that are right for real people, with real needs, in real time, creating marketing that matters. Our expertise in data and marketing sciences allows us to deliver our clients actionable human insight - an incredible understanding of genuine motivations, observed transactions and actual interactions. Our process reflects how real people think; we balance the left brain and the right, and we do our best work when we bring Precision and Empathy into balance. Building on our data foundation, RAPP delivers a range of capability across social, digital, customer experience and technology.

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