Is VR in advertising the new exciting direction that we’re heading toward or just another big-budget fluke? And where is the place of the screens in this process? These are the issues we’re going to touch upon in this article so bear with us. Let’s enter the mesmerizing world of VR advertising together and see where it stands.
How VR got to where it is
It seems that this word has been with us for a long time now. VR, or virtual reality, is a digital simulation of the real world. A world out of our world. Over the years, many companies have been trying hard to make it “the thing” to a questionable degree of success.
While humanity was really looking forward to escaping the real world plagued by wars, diseases, and lies since the Rennaissance (where the concept of “alternative reality” took off), it hasn’t been until the 50s that someone actually put it into practice. Sensorama was the name and Morton Heilig was the guy behind it. The said prototype was a mechanical device showing five short films accompanied by the engagement with your sense.
Since then private companies and governments around the world have been trying hard to put the alternative reality to, well, reality producing all sorts of virtual machines for technical, military, gaming, and entertainment purposes. However, it was with the Oculus Rift, a 2010 invention of Palmer Luckey, that the concept of VR really took shape and started conquering the world slowly but firmly.
Purchased by Facebook in 2014, the Oculus Rift headset approach to how VR should be perceived still is the “golden standard” for the industry. You put the set on and you’re immediately transported to another, “digitalized”, dimension with your real movements corresponding to the alternative reality ones.
It is within this immersive space that we talk about VR advertising. In other words, VR ads exist within the alternative reality. Some brands have already actively engaged with this medium. Others should definitely catch up because it starts to look very much like the future.
What is the correlation between digital signage and VR?
As we said, the classic mechanics of VR today is defined by what Oculus Rift has done. It’s always associated with a headset and with the action that takes place in a digital “world”, or environment.
However, the development of technology gave rise to a different kind of VR, the non-wearable one. Now, this kind of virtual reality is directly connected to digital signage. It is enabled by the screens and can’t exist without them.
Examples of no-wearable VR technology are mostly found in the entertainment industry. Among them are immersive GameSuite and SpectraVerse systems by Falcon’s Creative Group, X-Golf indoor golf simulator, and Base51 venue in California.
As you can see, there is a big chunk of the market that uses screens and VR technology simultaneously. And it’s just the beginning. As the technology progresses, so will the interpolation between those two. Both VR and digital signage are the bridges connecting the real and virtual worlds that why they are destined to coexist.
So what is the role of VR in advertising?
We’ve come to the primary theme of the article. There’s VR, there’s digital signage, there’s the highly engaged audience and there are brands. What’s missing? That’s right, the VR in advertising.
As virtual reality technology opens unlimited opportunities for world-building, there isn’t a single approach to doing VR ads. It always depends. And it’s always exciting. We know that for sure because while some were in the dark about the technology, others have successfully led awesome campaigns in virtual worlds.
Take Gucci for example. They had a “Gucci Town” world inside the Roblox game where players can play mini-games, buy designer clothes, and interact with each other. Then there’s Etsy Virtual House, a virtual home filled with items from the website. Another Roblox world is “Nikeland” following the same concept as the Gucci one.
Whatever the topic and the medium of the VR ad, it always follows the same goal. To be as interactive as possible and to engage with the customer on a deeper, more immersive level. After all, it’s all about the attention span.
When you take an ordinary static ad, it will be only a few seconds. But if the customer actually walks into your showroom online, plays games, and spends hours inside the branded “world”, now that’s a whole different approach to working with the attention span.
How to use digital signage in VR advertising?
At the moment there are two main approaches to using screens in correlation with VR.
a) as an “entry point” for the VR – used for the headset-based virtual reality
In order to enter virtual reality, there should be a gate. Digital signage may be the first point of this journey. Either by promoting the experience, or proving the links to the experience.
For example, a clothing brand wants to have a VR ad campaign inside a shopping mall. The virtual experience is accessed by the headset. However, in order to promote it and direct the potential audience to the place, the screens with the ad content are installed around the experience showing what the customers will get.
b) actually enabling the VR experience – for non-headset-based virtual reality
As we mentioned before, this kind of technology is already successfully used in the entertainment medium where the screens are used to enable the actual virtual reality and create the experience.
Brands also can use this approach to design advertising campaigns that put emphasis on the immersion and the sensory experience.