State-of-the art virtual reality is coming to a marketing campaign near you.
Virtual reality, or VR for short, has been used to bring storytelling to life in news documentaries and animated movies. Pixar toyed with it in its movie, Henry, an animated VR film about a hedgehog. The New York Times is also giving it a test run by incorporating virtual reality into its storytelling – from taking readers along a stroll in New York City to transporting them to a refugee camp in Syria. While the technology is fairly new, both traditional news media outlets and entertainment companies are experimenting with virtual reality for its ability to engage audiences.
Now creative agencies are applying the innovative technology to promote their clients’ products and services, “virtually” taking their audiences to exciting new places and allowing them first-hand experiences.
What’s exciting about VR is that viewers become part of the experience because they can actually look up, down and around, and feel immersed in the story. The way it works is that a 360-degree video of a place, or event, is filmed using special cameras and equipment. The video is later edited to be played in a Virtual Reality (VR) format that is accessible to the viewer by wearing specific VR headsets. Using high tech sensors, the headsets detect how the person is moving his or her head and then displays the footage accordingly.
In the world of marketing, this new technology has thousands of applications: It can take a viewer to an operating room alongside doctors as they perform life-saving surgery, or to a first row seat of a fashion show in Milan, or even deep diving inside the caves of a remote island.
“Our industry is just learning the power of this new way of telling stories,” said Federico Bianchi, Audio Visual Production Senior Director at Newlink Group, a creative agency based in Miami. “But it’s already proven to be a compelling tool for our clients.”
Outlets and brands that have implemented this technology thus far include BBC, Disney, ABC, CNN, Discovery, New York Times, Marriott and Target. Newlink –whose clients are mainly in Latin America, the Caribbean and the U.S. Hispanic market - is among the first to use VR in the marketing world and an absolute pioneer in Latin America.
The company has recently introduced its “Newlink Immerse” into various client campaigns, including two pieces to promote ecotourism and adventure in the Dominican Republic and a virtual journey into ESPN’s new studios in Mexico.
“Newlink Immerse was designed to help clients reach their customers by creating memorable experiences that promote both interaction and affinity with their respective brands,” said Teresa Villarreal, Senior Vice President of Newlink Tourism. “Underwater, on the ground or in the air – this cutting-edge technology can take consumers anywhere.”
Newlink has enjoyed notable success launching the virtual reality promotion for the Dominican Republic – where it took travelers at key airports throughout Latin America horseback riding, cave exploring, kite surfing, hiking and scuba diving in Puerto Plata and Samaná.
There are various ways to access the virtual reality technology, but the most engaging method is through VR headset goggles – Samsung sells a pair which retail for $99 and uses only Samsung smartphone as the screen. Other solutions, on the more affordable end, include Google Cardboard, a simple viewer which costs around $20 and that can be used with most smartphones.
Another alternative is simply viewing it on YouTube. The viewer places the cursor over the part of the video he or she would like to explore. This approach – though not as immersive as the goggles - works on most browsers and is free.
Virtual reality’s ability to create tangible and memorable experiences for the consumers they hope to reach is what’s driving the interest among companies that have products and services to market. “Our goal is to instill in the consumer a desire to respond to the call-to-action”, added Bianchi.
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