Virtual Reality: 360 Advertising

We’ve been touting the potential of virtual reality (VR) for two years now. Actually, I’ve personally been touting the potential for VR since queuing up for hours in the late 1980s only to be shown 2-pixels on a 1-inch head-mounted display running at a nausea inducing 5fps. After being charged £5.00 for 15 seconds, wiping the vomit from my chin, I had two simultaneous thoughts: I’d been completely ripped off and had seen the future.

What a difference three decades and billions of R’n’D from Facebook makes. Now, we live in a world where smart fridges have more calculations per second than NASA’s entire 1980s space-programme and VR is primed as the next big thing 2.0. That said, VR hardware has comedically high specs to run. VR hardware has HD flat panels running at 100FPS and no lag between your tracked movement and the displayed image. So no vomiting – just high-res photorealistic images pumped to your eyeballs.

In Jan this year, number crunchers Goldman Sachs ran a series of predicated adoption rates of different industries by 2025. And which industry nailed the number one slot, worth $11.6 billion? Gaming. But whatever forecasts analysts make, it’s going nowhere without platform support from the advertising industry. While content is always king (especially something as experiential and immersive as VR), advertising is, err, Queen? And us canaries in the court of VR will have completely new ways to experience products because nothing has been done like this before. The only thing we can say for sure is that VR advertising can’t be a marketing afterthought. The technology is so complicated, expensive and different, ads have to be developed natively from the ground up.

Those tentative steps have already started for invested companies and brands. Facebook has the biggest stake through its acquisition of Oculus Rift and Video Creation Tool advertising platform. Loads of consumer goods companies have already signed up and developers have designed other fantastic VR ads for sports events and cars: industries set to benefit massively from inventive advertising.

Considering gaming is going to be the biggest market, it’s surprising the industry has yet to show anything other than standard in-game native ads. But there’s so much market anticipation around gaming and VR, we expect to see inventive branding rolling out when all different VR kits finally go on sale this year. It’s such an exciting time to be in the cusp of VR with traditionally competitive companies working together to improve user experience before the walled gardens go up. Not virtual ones, just metaphorical.