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