1: Sell to an already captive audience

Visit any trade show these days and you will see the obligatory VR headset or three, at every stand. This is especially evident at tourism and real estate events. It’s good to see the timely latching onto VR by these industries, and besides being a crowd puller, VR does serve a real purpose. It purports (we’ll see why the use of that word, in a bit) to transport people to far away lands in a way no other visual communication medium preceding it, ever could. After all, through VR, you are bringing the destination to the customer right there at the trade show – helping them sign on the dotted line to experience the place later, IRL (in real life)

But customers get jaded… pretty quick. Queuing to wear a headset at a trade show, or even the energy needed to slip a phone into a give-away Google Cardboard viewer might soon lose it’s novelty. What most advertisers and Marketing depts. forget is – what happens after the customer has landed at their destination?

For instance: A trip to a 5 star resort in Krabi, Thailand, has it’s own luxury attached to it. Once inside the resort – the customer is captive. Why not use VR to sell local attractions? A boat trip to a nearby island, facilities at the resort – the serene interiors of the spa, that the customer might otherwise not venture into? Usman Farman wrote about this aspect, along with a more basic one: Is your brand story worth telling in VR?


2: Build for Room-sized Virtual Reality.

The current generation of VR head mounted displays are already beginning to show what’s possible with room scale VR. The HTC Vive headset is in the lead. Oculus’ rift and even the Samsung GearVR (a darling of VR marketing depts) will soon have room scale tracking capability.

Yet, I’ve come across many “VR” experiences with very healthy production budgets that do not take advantage of the immersiveness, room-sized VR affords.

For example: If the intention is to allow potential customers to experience the interiors of a luxury sedan or indeed, the first-class private quarters of an airline, it would make sense to not diminish the virtual experience by pushing out a 2D 360 video and calling it “VR”. Advertising and Marketing depts. need to know this difference and leverage it to the benefit of the brand. 2D 360 does have it’s place though, in transporting people to such places such as the Grand Canyon or the great outdoors.

We’ll revisit points 2 and 3 later again in this article.

MARTIN FREEMAN as Bilbo Baggins in New Line Cinema’s and MGM's fantasy adventure “THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

3: In VR, Scale is absolutely relative.

For good ‘presence’ in a virtual world, we should consider the following before crafting a VR experience:

  • Is the VR world a fantasy one?
  • Or, is it a replication of a real world experience.

If the VR world is purely based on fantasy, building-to-scale should be done in “relative” mode. ie. structures and elements should all be scaled relative to each other. Few situations are more immersion breaking than having a hobbit sized dining table with real-world sized cutlery modeled or shot green-screen, on it.

If the VR experience features a real world location or entity, it should be built to absolute scale. – i.e. It should have real world dimensions. Why? Because this opens up the possibility of heightening the sense of immersion tenfold, by introducing real world furniture into the VR world.

For example: A VR experience of a first class cabin in an airplane or that of sitting in a leather (faux of course) upholstered seat of a luxury sedan. The Marketing agency can tie in the brand directly with the VR experience. Room scale VR, combined with, – or at the very least created in – true stereoscopic 360 video allows the brand to bring in a Lie-flat seat/bed or the leather seat of the real car and place it ‘in-situ’ so that a customer can sit down in VR and simultaneously feel the real seat. No haptic feedback technology can deliver such an experience, today.

This is why ‘purport’ was used earlier on in this article. One can’t deliver a true VR experience unless it preserves the ‘spatiality’ of the world. In VR, you can’t cheat scale.


4: Mixed Reality – Digital Surrogates are coming. Help them check-in.

By now everyone in marketing and advertising must have heard about the overnight success of Pokémon Go. Augmented Reality (AR) or Mixed Reality (MR) is a bit different that Virtual Reality. Headsets such as Microsoft’s hololens will allow for MR and almost all of today’s smartphones have AR capability. The Pokémon Go phenomenon is not something new in AR, it just had good timing and a creative mindset to galvanize into action.

Creative agencies tempted to ape the success could do better – Digital Surrogates – They will soon be among us. Yes, you could check into FourSquare virtually and interact with a real person who might be there. The real person will see you across the coffee table via their hololens headset or a cell phone. The two of you can play virtual chess, while the Digital surrogate might actually be miles away at home. This “Dirrogate” can buy you a cup of coffee or you could have one delivered to the Dirrogate’s human operator.

Room scale VR tracking at a FourSquare location can VR and MR enable the real world establishment. This technology will soon be commonplace. What Memories with Maya might lack in literary finesse, it makes up for in hard science when describing how mixed reality will play an important part in the evolution of human relationships.

Sell Virtual seats at a Stadium or Concert – Why not? Audiences at the physical venue could even interact with digital surrogates of their friends.

5: Room Scale VR + Story + Agency = Presence.

When crafting VR experiences, AD Agencies should certainly think about giving audiences… agency. 

In the video snippet above, taken from my work-in-progress VR film: Dirrogate:DeepVR, it became apparent quickly, I had to make adjustments to VR furniture to match real world counterparts. In the scene, while the girl goes into an interior monologue, the audience (we/you) can sit down in the VR film, (thanks to ‘positional tracking’ in VR HMDs) and in the real world, while listening to the narrative unfold – a sense of being there, slowly building up.

If a branded VR experience were to open with a similar scene, chances are the audience would either already be sitting and thus look around, ‘settling-in’ to hear the narrative, or if they began the VR experience standing up, they might sit and find themselves sitting in the VR world, on the bed. In both cases the heightened sense of a virtual-real world merger, is hard to describe in words.

This is another reason why vanilla 2D 360 video when hawked as VR, is a misnomer. If you are planning or involved in the crafting of VR experiences for Brands, tell us about it!