VR the World: Virtual Reality Delivers Immersive Experience for Content Marketers
Content marketing has broken the bonds of mere words and stretched its wings to encompass almost any deliverable, from music and games to video. Now, we can add virtual reality (VR) to that list, as marketers mesh with advancing technology to deliver immersive experiences to consumers – from battling the flames alongside firefighters to sitting on the bench at a Raptors game or sharing a stage with Adele.
Content marketers looking to deliver VR experiences to audiences, however, need to plan on how to seamlessly offer content to the target market, and also fine-tune their ideas about what sort of relevant content will provide the best VR experience. There’s also the question – and it’s an important one – of whether your audience is ready for it.
There are several VR gear offerings now on the market, including Oculus Rift (owned by Facebook), Samsung Gear VR, the HTC Vive, PlayStation VR and Google Cardboard. But the market is far from mature. The VR names are familiar to people interested in the technology — for the most part, passionate gamers willing to become first adopters. But a survey conducted earlier this year by New York’s Horizon Media agency notes that the technology hasn’t yet gone mainstream. Only a third of respondents demonstrated unaided awareness of the names of devices. And while 82 per cent of respondents said they thought a VR device would be an “exciting new innovation to own,” only 36 per cent showed interest in actually owning one.
Accessibility, in terms of price, ranges significantly. For as little as $10, Google Cardboard and its imitators can transform a smartphone into a VR device; a fully tricked-out HTC Vive rig could cost $4,000. One type of VR content may not be fully exploitable on every platform in a fragmented technology landscape.
Los Angeles-based VirtualSKY says it’s solved that problem, though, by offering a platform that allows clients to deliver immersive content to consumers using any VR gear. Content can be seamlessly inserted into any of 4,000 virtual reality apps and games, most in the free-to-play category. VirtualSKY specializes in two types of content: five-to-10-second pre-rolls and 10-to-30-second interstitial content, ranging from simple experiences to straight up VR commercials.
Cameron V. Peebles is chief marketing officer at VirtualSKY and parent company Airpush. “When I saw the acquisition of Oculus Rift by Facebook, I knew it signalled a big play in the way that people communicate,” he says. “That inspired us to create a platform to deliver branded content to anyone tuned in to VR.”
VR content consumes a lot of data by Internet standards — files range anywhere from 100 to 300 megabytes – but “part of what makes VirtualSKY appealing to content marketers is its ability to load that material quickly without stuttering or skipping,” says Peebles.
The platform does more than deliver content. It also delivers it in a context matching the VR experiences audience members are already enjoying. Watching a VR documentary on kayaking in the Philippines? VirtualSKY can deliver content immersing the viewer in a Bora Bora resort. Engrossed in a first-person racer? While you’re at the pit stop, VirtualSKY can drop you into the driver’s seat of a BMW 9-series screaming down the Autobahn.
The platform also shows its smarts by ensuring that VR content is appropriate to the audience. No violence for someone playing a children’s game, for example. VirtualSKY can tell content marketers how many completed views their content received, and whether viewers visited the advertiser’s website via VR browser. The platform also employs heat-mapping technology that allows the company to report back to clients on what viewers were looking at and precisely when.
VirtualSKY kicked off its presence with VR videos for charitable causes, including PETA, Stand Up to Cancer and Charity: Water. It recently delivered a 30-second chunk of high-profile VR content featuring water guns and flying cereal on behalf of Post Fruity Pebbles.
The company both creates and delivers content and works to educate clients on how to deliver it effectively. For example, content is limited to 30-second bites because viewers perceive VR as lasting much longer than two-dimensional video of identical length.
Peebles says that clients also need to understand the sometimes-disorienting power of the VR medium. Extreme falls and wild rollercoaster rides might inspire nausea instead of thrills. Forcing content into the viewer’s face can be invasive and frightening, rather than amusing.
“You’re pulling the audience into your brand experience,” says Peebles. “Think about how you want people to feel after they’ve visited your home.”
While VR content can be assembled from stock material, many clients prefer original content. So how do you create an immersive experience around an African safari, if you have, only a two-week time frame?
“You fly a crew to Africa, record the VR footage and then get to work,” he says. “In VR, there’s no good substitute for the real thing.”