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A whole new world: the changing landscape of VR and AR advertising

You inch down a dim corridor, shakily aiming a pistol while following an ominous trail of blood. A low groan makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up and you spin to see a zombie shuffle around the corner. The gunshots ring in your ears as the creature falls at your feet. You are in a virtual reality world.
Walking down the familiar sidewalks of your community, you check the map on your phone and see your avatar strolling through a cheerful green analog of the real world — except instead of a squirrel in your neighbor’s tree, you see a monster. And with a few taps on your phone, you can even catch it. You are in an augmented reality world.
An alternative to reality

A page from an early ’90s marketing campaign for a Virtuality arcade game system.
Photo credit: Dr. Waldern/Virtuality Group

Though both are experiencing a significant surge in public interest, VR and AR are not new tech. VR as we know it started gaining buzz in the ’80s, with video game consoles achieving widespread in-home adoption and sci-fi movies like “Tron” sparking interest. Then, in 1991, the VR company Virtuality released its VR pods to the world (well, to arcades and movie theaters, anyway). Users, however, quickly abandoned these always awkward, frequently nauseating machines with their bulky hardware and clunky graphics, and VR tech has been stumbling its way toward usability ever since. Augmented reality — the enhanced image created by putting a computer generated display over a real-time view of one’s surroundings — is newer, with the first see-through AR coming to cell phones in 2004.

These technologies have both been enjoying something of a renaissance lately. Modern VR headsets are vast improvements over their early ’90s counterparts, offering a better experience in every way, from the graphics and motion detection to the sleekness of the hardware itself. And AR has, perhaps, finally had its breakthrough moment. Let’s take a look at what’s driving the adoption of reality-altering tech and what that could mean for businesses who want to take advantage of the advertising opportunities they offer.

VR

Several companies are trying to stay ahead of the VR hype and investing in the technology as an advertising medium. And it’s easy to see why it can seem so appealing. Not only does it offer a memorable experience, immersive visuals and boundless worlds, it is the definition of a captive audience. Strap a VR viewer to the user’s face and they are instantly free of any distractions from the world that you create. Want to send potential customers on a journey through a world where everyone is happily using your product vs. a bleak world where no one is? VR is the way to do it. The potential for drama and storytelling is vast and exciting.

Setting an example

Coke’s sleigh ride

While this potential is far from fully realized, one company is leading the way in the VR advertising space: Coca-Cola. Last Christmas, Coca-Cola created a virtual reality sleigh ride. Using Oculus Rift, thousands of people in Poland got to play Santa for a day — flying all over the country and into different villages, like a roller coaster in the sky. Coke has also sponsored a VR World Cup experience where participants first entered a replica of the locker room at Brazil’s Maracana Stadium. Then, after putting on VR Oculus Rift goggles, they made a grand entrance onto the playing field to play a game in front of a huge virtual crowd. View here. More recently, Coke has been shipping its 12-packs in cardboard packages that can be folded into VR goggles for your smartphone.

cokesoccer

Coke’s VR mimics the user’s motions within the game.

With these efforts, Coke may be offering a peek at what future VR advertising success might look like: sponsoring experiences rather than just promoting products. As Matt Wolf, Coca-Cola’s head of global gaming, said, “there’s branding within the experience, but the more valuable aspect is that viewers are getting access to something that wouldn’t otherwise be possible…Thanks to Coke.”1

Trapped with cheese

Boursin’s cheese roller coaster

There are a few advertisers who have had some success luring people to try their independent VR experiences, from Volvo’s virtual test drives to Boursin’s (a French soft cheese maker) VR tour through a fridge full of its chilled treats. But, aside from Coke’s cardboard goggles, these efforts all took a significant investment and could only reach a limited audience for one key reason: most people don’t yet own a VR headset, so they need to be supplied by the advertiser. The reality is that games, not ads, will be driving the adoption of VR hardware because, as marketer Nicholas Manluccia wrote in Advertising Age, “There is nothing inherently compelling about being trapped in a refrigerator with spreadable cheese.”2

The real turning point in VR advertising will come when people start purchasing personal VR headsets for their homes on a large scale. With several of these headsets nearing their widespread public release dates, that time is fast approaching. About 14 million VR devices are expected to sell worldwide this year, according to market researcher TrendForce, which projects VR app, software and device sales will soar to $70 billion by 2020.2 Because of this, VR titles were popular games to demo at this year’s E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo). From Star Trek to Minecraft to the ever-present zombie shooters, it seemed like every developer wanted a piece of the VR pie, and they expected that pie to be full of fruit. Clearly, to many in the industry, VR is no longer the future of gaming, but a significant part of its present.

Virtual shopping and beyond

Modern VR could take you from the Amazon Jungle to Amazon.com

So, people will be buying these things, and they’ll be buying them specifically to play games. Assuming that most consumers continue to try to avoid, rather than actively seek out, advertising experiences, how else does a company who wants to advertise get in on that VR action? One way might be through virtual shopping. People actually seem pretty excited about the prospect. In a survey last year, researcher Ericsson ConsumerLab asked which feature of VR seemed the most enticing. The top response — more even than movies or video games — was the ability to “see items in real size and form when I shop online.”2 I recently could have used a “see how this overly complicated sectional will really fit in my living room” VR experience, so I understand the appeal.

Beyond virtual shopping and sponsored experiences, the future of VR advertising will likely involve taking advantage of the virtual worlds created by entertainment companies and telling your story to the people who are already there. “All that software and design work focused on making your hand look like it naturally wraps around a gun and being able to pick up objects with two hands — that nuance can be applied to a vacation simulator where you’re on a beach and want to pick up a seashell,” notes James Iliff, cofounder of L.A.-based VR tech company Survios. “One can easily imagine that scenario for Norwegian Cruise Lines’ The Sea is Calling campaign, which shows people in TV ads picking up shells to hear the voice of the sea in them.”1 The ad industry has to figure out the virtual space — a completely new form of storytelling where you don’t just have a printed picture or frame of a video to work with, but a whole world. The learning curve will be steep, but the possibilities are virtually endless.

AR

Augmented reality has largely been an example of a technology that has not lived up to its hype. Om Malik of The New Yorker describes it as, “the ‘boy who cried wolf’ of the post-Internet world — it’s long been promised but has rarely been delivered in a satisfying way… none of [the apps] have gone mainstream, even those developed by Ikea and Lego.”3 Until now.

Monster success

An AR game that could be a game changer

Faster to the top than Candy Crush, more profitable than Clash of Clans, able to steal more of your time than Facebook, it’s Pokémon GO! On July 6, Niantic Labs released an AR experience that instantly captured the hearts, minds, and GPS locations of millions of people around the world. I don’t need to explain Pokémon GO to you because by now, only a few weeks after its release date, it is absolutely everywhere (but just in case, click here for a brief primer). People are also playing it everywhere. From downtown shopping centers to parks, you can hardly be outside in public without seeing someone catching Pokémon.

This perception of ubiquity is backed by the numbers. Pokémon GO’s estimated 75 million downloads and $1.6 million in daily revenue has sent Niantic’s worth soaring, now valued at around $3.65 billion and on track to make $740 million in revenue this year.4 And, it’s not just downloads where Pokémon GO numbers are impressive, app engagement is unbelievably high. With over 20 million in the U.S. engaging daily for an average of 33 minutes per day, Pokémon GO has left even Twitter in the dust.

An AR-based game that has the power to not only grab consumers’ attention but significantly change their habits is something that should make advertisers take note. This experience is drawing users to both digital and physical spaces.5

Mainstream AR, at last

It really can be this simple
Photo credit: L’inizio Pizza Bar

AR has finally gone mainstream and, as will likely be the case with VR, its incredible rise was driven by a game. So, what does this mean for advertisers? For one thing, many of the players belong to that coveted, stubbornly advertising-resistant demographic: Millennials. This development could mean a big opportunity to capture their interest and marketers are already champing at the bit. Brandon Berger, Ogilvy Worldwide’s chief digital officer has already begun briefing his creative teams, brainstorming ideas on how brands might capitalize on Pokémon GO. “There’s no reason that advertisers would have to work directly with Pokémon GO in the near term.” He notes. “Why couldn’t brands participate at a gym location? If you’re a beverage brand or a retailer or even a real gym, why don’t you find gyms and put your brand right around that, put experiences around that?”

Some businesses were lucky enough to have their physical locations associated with in-game locations right from the start. As players began flooding in, they realized the connection to this virtual world could mean actual profit. Some have installed extra phone charging stations to accommodate these potential new customers, others are advertising their connections to the game, and some are even using the game’s own mechanics to their advantage. Sales at New York pizzeria L’inizio Pizza Bar went up 75 percent over the weekend after the owner spent $10 on “lure modules.”

To allow companies and advertisers to take advantage of the interest in an official capacity, Niantic has announced that they will soon add a “sponsored locations” program, where businesses can pay to have their physical locations associated with the game.

The virtual future

The Pokémon GO phenomenon provides us with a valuable example of what advertising could look like in a virtual future:

  1. It will be centered around gamers and gaming. With total revenues for the industry hitting $23.5 billion in the U.S. alone for 2015, this is a huge market.
  2. It will be experience-based, offering people something that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.
  3. It will largely exist in the worlds created by entertainment developers.

For now, businesses and advertisers are still wrapping their heads around what this all means — throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks. And why not? Those who are brave enough to jump in now might just help a whole new world take shape.


Sources

  1. http://adage.com/article/digital/virtual-reality-advertising-s-big-thing/294328/
  2. http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-virtual-reality-advertisements-wp-20160310-story.html
  3. http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/pokemon-go-will-make-you-crave-augmented-reality
  4. http://qz.com/741117/the-company-that-created-pokemon-go-is-now-worth-over-3-billion/
  5. https://techcrunch.com/2016/07/13/pokemon-go-tops-twitters-daily-users-sees-more-engagement-than-facebook/
4 Ways to Enhance Your Employee Communication

An internal audience is arguably the most important segment for any organization to reach. Why is this? Employees are a company’s largest expense, and they are typically customer facing, so they can deeply influence brand perception.

It’s one thing to realize the significance of this audience and another thing to know how to reach them strategically. So, we’ve put together some of the best approaches to internal communication, each of which can be adapted to help you more effectively reach employees, driving greater engagement and results.

Use storytelling

storytellingStories are often more easily remembered than statistics or random facts. But the use of storytelling has importance beyond increased retention. By telling a complete story, you help employees further understand the relevance of your company strategy and provide real-life examples for them to associate with it. Stories are also more likely to draw the audience in and keep their attention longer. Just as you’d want to capture your customers with a story, the idea is the same for your internal audience.

Consider delivery method

deliveryThe way we communicate has evolved drastically over the last five years, and the essence of change is bound to continue. Not only do you have to consider the message you’re communicating, but you must also think about the best methods to reach your internal audience. Are they on social media? Then perhaps an internal forum or social platform would be a good option. Does gamification seem to engage employees? Then it’s time to develop a game and bring out their competitive side. The classic philosophy that says the medium is the message holds true here, so be sure to think about how the delivery will reach the desired internal audience!

Watch language

languageHere, you simply have to consider what you would want. For important information, would you rather read generic corporate speak, or would you rather have the information presented to you like a fun, engaging conversation? This is especially important for an internal audience. They’re often busy and can easily ignore internal memos and messages. If you don’t make your communication intriguing, they are even more likely to pass on reading it, even though they could be missing important information! The easier the read, the more everyone benefits.

Give employees a way to measure effort

measurementEmployees can’t be enticed to drive results if they don’t know where their own company stands. They need insight into market and customer behavior to develop a drive to perform better than the competition. For example, if they see their own company is closely trailing a competitor, it puts it into perspective for them as to how much harder they have to work to pass the other company. On the other hand, if they’re blindly working toward a generic “let’s drive results” goal, then the exact target is unclear and motivation then suffers. So, in your communications strategy, you should include company standings and current goals, along with competitor details, as well.

 
At GO2 Advertising, we understand that your company’s internal challenges are distinct. So what we can do is match your specific needs with our tailored capabilities and determine your goals that will ultimately shape our strategy for an effective and engaging internal education plan.

Sources:
Harvard Business Review — Eight Ways to Communicate Your Strategy More Effectively

Best Practices for a Social Media Response Strategy

Social media has quickly turned into a “first response” type of media where most customers expect a reply within minutes. There are times when your social followers just want to share with your business, whether with images or comments. But often, your followers will be seeking out your social media accounts because they have an issue, and they hope that you can resolve it. Social monitoring and listening are an excellent place to start, but in cases where action needs to be taken — this is where a strong social media response strategy is key.

Develop Guidelines

Before jumping in and replying to every comment that appears on your page, take some time to develop some guidelines. Will you have different individuals representing your page and acting as customer service representatives? Or will you be devoting one account and one profile to all responses? Either approach is a sound one, it comes down to what will work best for the size of your team, business, social following and the type of comments your business receives regularly.

Craft Sample Responses

talkingbacktalkingsmackOff the top of your head, you should be able to list and identify commonly asked questions — similar to an FAQ section that you might include on your website. These types of questions are a good place to start, because they’re likely to be asked over and over again. Start putting some sample responses in place so that you and your team have an easy reply ready to go when someone asks the same question you have seen 5 times before. One thing we recommend when replying is to include the customer’s name in the response to make it more personable and begin a conversation.

Prepare for Negativity

Unfortunately, negative comments and messages do happen from time to time. Depending on the degree of negativity, it may be best to try to move the conversation offline to either a customer support phone number or a customer support email address. Something that can help your business filter out negative comments is to establish page guidelines or house rules. If someone violates these rules, then you are in the clear to hide, remove or block them if necessary. Even simple requests can turn negative if the user finds your responses unhelpful. In this case, it is important to show the user that you are escalating their case so that they are heard by the appropriate department of your business.

Consider Your Response Time

cheddarflyingaroundResponse time is a crucial metric to take into account when developing a social media response strategy. Most research on social media response time recommends a response in less than 24 hours, but each platform comes with its own set of expectations. For instance, 72% of Twitter users who complain to a company expect a response within 1 hour of tweeting. Facebook now offers a response time badge that can be shared on your page once you meet their criteria — 90% response rate in an average of 15 minutes or less. With criteria like that, many pages will struggle to achieve the response time badge, but quick responses aren’t always the best approach. Don’t be afraid to sit down with your social media team and brainstorm possible responses and outcomes. The more thorough the response, the more likely you have gone above and beyond to help a customer.

Get Creative

Example responses are a great time saver, but it can sometimes be even better to craft your own response depending on the situation. Your social media team will be trained to know the answers to specific questions, but there should be another layer of trust that consists of allowing team members to respond based on the guidelines outlined in your strategy. Customers, particularly social media customers, will see through a cut-and-paste reply quickly and appreciate a more “human” response, as opposed to an “automated” one.

 

Creating a social media response strategy is essential for any business using any social media platform. Anything can happen on social media, and there are sure to be a few surprises along the way, no matter how prepared and thorough your response strategy is. Thinking ahead, solving problems and anticipating customer needs are just a few things to keep in mind when creating a strategy. Be sure to track all customer comments and responses in a spreadsheet or word document so that you have references when these questions are inevitably asked again. The more time you spend creating the best responses possible, the more time you will save in the future, and the happier your audience will be.