New advertising for and inside virtual reality

[Two stories on advertising and virtual reality: First, Adweek describes a new Facebook ad campaign for the Oculus Go (Variety also notes the emphasis on media consumption rather than games) and the importance of engagement by current users vs. the number of headsets sold; the story includes four of the ads, which are also available on YouTube (1, 2, 3, 4). Then, 360i reports on the first programmatic advertising (targeted, algorithm-based placements) inside virtual reality experiences, in this case to promote the second season of National Geographic’s television series Mars. See The Drum for more coverage. –Matthew]

[Image: The rapper Wiz Khalifa stars in a new Oculus Go ad about VR entertainment. Credit: Facebook]

Watch Wiz Khalifa, Leslie Jones and Jonah Hill Experience Virtual Reality in New Oculus Ad

It’s all about entertainment

By Marty Swant
November 13, 2018

Oculus has a new star-studded 60-second spot that aims to highlight how virtual reality entertainment—not just gaming—could be appealing to the masses.

Just in time for the holiday shopping season, the Facebook-owned VR company has recruited a slew of celebrities—Wiz Khalifa, Leslie Jones, Jonah Hill, Adam Levine, Behati Prinsloo and Awkwafina—to wear an Oculus Go headset while watching everything from basketball games to Oscar-winning movies.

According to Rebecca Van Dyck, CMO of AR/VR at Facebook, the goal of the ad is to help show all that’s possible within a headset beyond gaming—a feature the company initially marketed earlier this year when the headset first debuted. She said 80 percent of people who’ve already bought the Go are new to VR.

“We also just wanted to continue to normalize VR a bit more,” she said. “Especially with this really accessible price point.”

The Go, Facebook’s most consumer-friendly VR device, costs $200, a price the company hopes will make VR accessible enough for anyone interested in buying their first headset, without having to attach it to a powerful PC or an Android smartphone.

The ads—both a 60-second spot and several shorter adaptations that accompany it—have a humorous tone, showcasing the diverse array of VR content already on the Go. It starts with Khalifa sitting at a party wearing a Go inside a living room by himself rather than by the pool. Swaying slightly, the spot suddenly shows us what he’s looking at: 360-degree view of himself on stage rapping in front of a massive crowd. In the next scene, Hill and Levine are seen watching an NBA game in VR even while they’re in different locations. Later on, Jones is sitting in a tub and stroking the air while watching The Shape of Water.

In a way, the celebrities seem to be helping to humanize what many see as nerdy, bulky or confusing devices—using their familiar faces to break down unfamiliar walls of a new medium.

For example, in another spot, Hill and Levine, who are longtime friends in real life, watch the movie Stand By Me together from different locations while recounting a fake memory from childhood. While Hill makes fun of Levine, Levine’s real-life wife, Prinsloo, listens in from next to him in their bed. Seeing the digital VR avatars of Hill and Levine also gives viewers a glimpse of what the future of social media in VR might look like beyond the realms of Facebook and Instagram—where people can hang out with their friends in VR rather than on their actual couch.

The adoption of VR has been slower than some expected, especially in a year that’s seen the technology make its way deeper into culture while companies spend more heavily to create VR experiences and other content for marketing, enterprise and entertainment.

According to a June report from IDC, shipments of virtual reality and augmented reality headsets globally were down 30.5 percent year-over-year with just 1.2 million units sold in the first quarter of 2018. However, the company predicts the market will speed up as more headsets untethered from smartphones and desktop companies enter the market. In fact, IDC expects the market for 2018 to increase to 8.9 million VR and AR headsets by the end of 2018 and to 65.9 million by 2022.

Of course, the Go isn’t the only VR headset Facebook is pushing. Next spring, Oculus plans to release the Oculus Quest, a slightly more expensive standalone headset that will cost $399 and allow the user to move around a room similarly to the flagship Rift headset, which is also rumored to get a second version at a later date. And while the Quest isn’t quite as powerful as the Rift, it will allow users to begin experiencing the “six degrees of freedom” that’s often a key feature of VR.

Oculus has also had its share of setbacks this year. Last month, Oculus co-founder Brendan Iribe left the company he helped create six years ago—departing just two years after co-founder Palmer Luckey.

Just a few weeks ago, Luckey himself wrote a blog post on his website discussing the reality of the VR market. He said that even if the tech were free, none of it is “good enough” to go mainstream. That’s not to say he doesn’t think there’s potential yet to come. He said VR is less about the total headsets sold, and more about how often people that have one engage with it.

“Network effects kick in, users buy and subscribe to deep libraries of content to keep themselves occupied, content developers make piles of money, and they use that money to develop better and broader content ad infinitum,” Luckey wrote. “In the end, hardware sales are a meaningless metric for the success of VR. They matter only as a means to an end, a foundation to enable the one thing that truly matters: Engagement. Engagement is all that matters. Engagement is Everything!”

VR is also a key area of growth for Facebook as a whole. At its Oculus developer conference this summer, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company has a goal of getting 1 billion people into VR, though it’s so far reached less than 1 percent of that target. (Along with the TV spots, Facebook has also been running digital out-of-home ads in key U.S. markets focused on increasing brand awareness.)

Asked if she’s surprised at how slow VR has been to catch on, Van Dyck said she’s not.

“This is a new human behavior,” she said. “So in a way this is behavior change work here.”


360i Teams Up with National Geographic and Oath to Premiere First-Ever Programmatic VR Campaign

by 360i
November 8, 2018

360i is partnering with National Geographic and Verizon’s Oath on the first-ever programmatic VR campaign to promote the season two premiere of MARS, a hybrid, six-episode series that alternates between scripted drama and documentary sequences to predict what life will be like on the red planet. The prospect of terraforming Mars once was considered science fiction, but soon, it will be a reality. After a highly successful first season — the series became National Geographic’s second highest rated series of 2017 — the campaign will build awareness for the return of MARS, which premieres on November 12.

For the first time ever, VR users will see ad placements for MARS in picture frames, on TVs and even on traditional billboards in gaming and social experiences — all within the immersive VR environment. This new ad experience will help the network deliver dynamic ad creative to attract viewers, seamlessly powered by Oath Ad Platforms and a partnership with SSP Admix and BidSwitch.

“We constantly look for ways to innovate and create seamless and immersive content experiences for our audience,” said Dennis Camlek, executive vice president, strategy and consumer marketing at National Geographic. “By partnering with 360i and Oath on delivering this incredible, first-of-its-kind VR experience, our audience is able to engage with MARS and get excited for the new season, and ultimately, by using this powerful storytelling device, we’re hoping to inspire future scientists, explorers and adventurers.”

VR usage is growing, especially within the gaming audience. There will be an estimated 36.9 million VR users by the end of this year, according to eMarketer, and that number is expected to increase 70 percent by 2020. We know consumers are hungry for engaging, well-executed VR ad experiences that provide utility, enhance reality and create meaningful connections with brands.


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