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Show and Sell: Virtual Reality Advertising is Coming, and It’s Going to Be HUGE

The world of Virtual Reality is filled to the brim with creativity. From exciting apps to immersive games, the virtual worlds being built are as impressive as the hardware used to explore them.

But the creators will soon be faced with a familiar challenge; one experienced by the smartphone app builders that came before them: How do you monetize your hard work?

Unsurprisingly, the answer appears to be Virtual Reality advertising. And in addition to helping VR developers earn money from apps and games, it could also spell the end for traditional digital advertising.

In this blog post, we examine VR advertising, how it will work, the costs involved, and share some of our favorite recent examples.

VR Advertising is Next Level Storytelling

Modals, scroll-throughs, pop-ups, banners, autoplay videos, the list goes on, and so too does our frustration with the way companies are trying to sell to us online. But over the next decade, that frustration looks certain to end. The use of Virtual Reality in advertising promises to drive the final nail in the coffin of those ineffective, alienating, and enraging digital advertising practices.

Instead, we’ll experience immersive and engaging advertisements which, if executed properly, won’t feel like advertisements. And here’s how it will work:

How will Virtual Reality advertising work?

This early concept of a VR ad format from Google shows the technology’s potential to display video adverts, but it’s fair to say that it’s not the most imaginative application. It leans heavily on an existing ad type, and it merely scratches the surface when it comes to engagement and immersion.

Unity, on the other hand, appear to have conjured a more creative approach to VR advertising with the Virtual Room. Described as an Alice in Wonderland-type doorway to a world within a virtual world, VR players will have the opportunity to interact with highly-targeted and relevant ads, without breaking that feeling of immersion built up during their time spent in the virtual environment.

As Unity explains in this blog post, their VR ad platform has been created “within the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) emerging ad experience guidelines … built to provide an engaging experience for the user and distributed within existing VR apps made with Unity.

The specially created ad spaces are integrated with Unity Analytics, providing heat maps to track user engagement, while advertisers can also access standard ad metrics and measure a user’s emotional response via a collaboration with Isobar.

Why will this be ‘better’?

A recent study found that 74 percent of digital natives (16-39) are tired of brands shouting at them on social networks. Online advertising has become overwhelmingly intrusive, with advertisers mining data to such a degree that the line between creativity and creepiness is becoming blurred.

The Virtual Room offers a literal escape from such advertising practices. In the future, when you’re exploring your favorite VR app or game, every now and again you’ll happen upon a glowing door, and when you enter, you’ll briefly be transported to another virtual world - one in which you can interact with a brand’s virtual content.

The idea is that the advert won’t be passive (i.e., you won’t just watch it); instead, you’ll play with it. The longer you play, the more time you’ll get to experience the ad’s content. And on the flipside, if you don’t interact, the ad will cut short at 30 seconds, allowing you to return to your app or game.

This will be advertising where the consumer feels in control. In fact, if the content is compelling enough, it won’t even feel like an advertisement. Pitched correctly, the Virtual Room could house a sponsored mini-game or branded extension of the app you’re already exploring.

What’s more, the Virtual Room could be just the antidote to Ad Blockers - use of which was up 30% in 2016 - that brands and publishers are screaming out for.

What Will VR Advertising Cost?

That is the question!

Producing a 360 degree video ad can cost in the region of tens of thousands of dollars. Developing a fully interactive, immersive VR ad? At the moment, that could be anywhere upwards of $500,000.

Unity is positioning the Virtual Room as a premium advertising platform, meaning there will only be a select few brands willing and able to experiment in the beginning. That being said, the growing consumer interest in VR - and the fact that the combined VR/AR industry looks set to be worth $108bn by 2021 - means the apps and games being developed will need to be monetized somehow, and Unity’s ad platform could become the standard required to do just that.

But for the here and now, Virtual Reality advertising could be well worth the cost for those brands able to afford it, and for one simple reason: you’re not competing for an individual’s attention. Unlike other mediums, where ads need to shout loud to be seen and heard, VR is all about immersion and engagement, without any outside interruptions.

Some Virtual Reality Advertising Campaigns in Action

Virtual Reality advertising may be in its early stages, but it’s already bearing fruit in some very creative ways. Here are just a few of our favorite examples:

1. Lionsgate / Jigsaw (Virtual Room)

Unity debuted its Virtual Room ad platform in partnership with entertainment company Lionsgate to promote their 2017 horror movie Jigsaw - the eighth installment of the Saw franchise.

Featuring VR-rendered props from the movie, custom voice acting from Jigsaw actor Tobin Bell, and special features related to the other films, this is a terrific example of Virtual Reality advertising in action.

When users first enter the Virtual Room - distributed across two VR apps (Samsung Internet and Nanite Fulcrum) - they find themselves trapped with sinister puzzles to solve. As they do so, they’re moved around the room, unlocking special Saw shrines, before ending up in a final room, where the Jigsaw trailer plays on a large screen inside their headset.

2. Infiniti / Infiniti Q60 VR

In partnership with the VR ad network OmniVirt, car manufacturer Infiniti created a virtual test-drive of the Infiniti Q60.

Users have the opportunity to drive the vehicle at high speeds along multiple routes, including windy mountain roads, echoey tunnels, and dusty desert roads. The engine roars as they find themselves fully immersed from the driver’s seat, providing a brief glimpse of the Q60 experience.

3. Netflix / Ultimate Beastmaster

Another OmniVirt ad, Netflix wanted to demonstrate the scale of the obstacle course on their new show ‘Ultimate Beastmaster’.

Using VR and 360 degree video, the advert provides a guided tour of the ‘beast’, giving the viewer an idea of what lies in store for the competing athletes.

What Does the Future of VR Advertising Look Like?

The long-term future of Virtual Reality advertising appears to be one of great promise, however in the short-term there are still barriers to entry - namely price.

And a recent report co-authored by Vibrant Media and The Drum Studios highlights that while many experts agree that VR will make advertising more immersive and fun, brands need to be careful. The question remains at this point if the consumer will experience greater value when viewing an ad in VR, or if it will simply exist as a low ROI novelty.

That being said, the report also points to a fair amount of optimism where Virtual Reality advertising is concerned. 64% of advertisers already believe there’s room for VR in the digital video marketplace, and 40% of consumers claim that VR adverts would make them less likely to use an ad-blocker.

Meanwhile, against the backdrop of concerns around the cost and potential ROI of VR ads, media agencies are actively looking to invest in VR content, with 29% of those polled by Vibrant Media already purchasing VR ads for their clients. And it will be those agencies and brands that sidestep gimmicky applications in the short-term that will most likely see long-term success.

In Summary

From a creative standpoint, the prospect of the mass adoption of Virtual Reality technology is a tantalizing one. With immersion and engagement of which other mediums can only dream, VR will transform our relationship with advertising.

It will no longer be an intrusive practice, designed to interrupt us at inopportune times; instead, it will treat our attention spans with the respect they deserve, to the point where being advertised to could be a genuinely amazing experience. And that sounds pretty exciting to us.

How Can AppReal Help?

Our team of talented VR game developers have their fingers firmly on the pulse of the latest VR trends, and we’re ready to bring your Virtual Reality app to life.

With a high level of experience in custom app development across a wide range of industries, we can guide your idea from concept to completion. You’ll receive a VR app that will engage your users, with the potential to be monetized as VR ads become more commonplace.

Contact us today to speak with one of our VR app development experts.


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