VR - Virtual Reality - is set to boom in 2017. With at-home kits such as Facebook’s Oculus Rift, HTC’s Vive and Samsung’s Gear VR becoming more reasonably priced and Mobile headsets (for use with smartphones) becoming more advanced, sales are expected to double and triple those of 2016. With limited (yet growing) gaming and film libraries of VR content currently available, the question of advertising within VR systems is being raised.
No one likes advertising of course, but VR consumers might actually welcome it to some extent. After all, a potential revenue stream (paid advertising income) might be the push the largest gaming developers need to really start creating groundbreaking VR content that would potentially be free of charge to users. Last November Vertebrae announced that they had raised $10 million to create advertising specifically designed for virtual reality. They are researching ad-placement that would be the least disruptive to the VR experience, and are (thankfully) shying away from simply incorporating traditional 2D video ads or banner ads.
The 2017 Sundance Film Festival, that opened last week, has a dedicated category for VR content as well as a stage that offers attendees the chance to experience some of this content within a VR system. As a part of the New Frontier program, both scripted and non-scripted, as well as live action and animated VR films have been selected to screen, the range and quality is highly diverse. With accompanying panels dedicated to the discussion (and prediction) of how VR movie watching will evolve in the near future, filmmakers, networks and studios are also exploring VR advertising as a potential source of production funding.
VR films are available now (mostly free of charge) from the dedicated YouTube VR channel as well as iTunes and GooglePlay stores. Check out this psychedelic piece that takes you into the warped mind of Salvador Dali (courtesy of the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, FL):
Or skydive along with the US Army Golden Knights parachute team with this video:
So what does all of this mean for business owners and marketers looking for the latest, greatest avenues to reach their customers? Right now it’s mostly a “watch this space” situation, as Vertebrae and other similar companies devise and test advertising models, and as at-home systems evolve further, we will gain a better vision of what branded video, corporate video and online ads will look like when produced for VR. For those companies whose primary target demographic is tech-early-adopters and gamers (including the leading VR hardware/software producers), simple yet fully immersive commercials and branded R content have begun to pop-up online. Sports drink giant Gatorade was one of the first to test the 360 degree waters, with this VR branded video, currently available for viewing with a VR headset and compatible smartphone devices. Letting our imagination run wild, we could see interactive VR commercials sooner rather than later, and with the continuing development of full-body sensor-wear, customers might soon be able to feel sensations in relation to the product or service being advertised - a true 4D at-home experience
Front Runner Films is excited to be shooting our very first short-film/product education video later this month, and we’ll share more details and the behind-the-scenes scoop on that shoot as it happens. Until then, reach out to us with your business goal as we'd love to explore telling your brand story in 2D or VR formats.