Last January, I had the pleasure of attending the Consumer Electronics Showcase (CES) in Las Vegas. This show is put on each year by the Consumer Technology Association™ and it is often the place where the next-generation innovations are launched or discussed.
Augmented reality and virtual reality were by far the biggest trends discussed at CES 2016. Google, 20th Century Fox and the New York Times discussed their successful partnership with Home Delivery Subscribers VR adoption of their new content created for use with Google Cardboard. November of 2015, The New York Times and Google shipped a million disposable virtual reality headsets alongside a new “NYT VR” app to home delivery subscribers in the five boroughs of New York. It was so successful that they did it again this past April (2016), but this time they sent out 300,000 Cardboard headsets to its most loyal digital customers, which they based on subscription length.
The Cardboard headsets allow consumers to view virtual reality shorts created by various sources, including the New York Times, VICE, ABC and others.
OK, so this all makes lots of sense…there’s a story (journalism) and we build a world around the story and ship out the content to consumers in a new and exciting way. How can this translate to brand marketing and advertising?
We’ve seen examples of brands such as Merrell utilize VR to create a buzz around their brand. However, this activation was kicked-off at the Sundance Film Festival and sure, the experience created a buzz but…then what? Hearing about someone’s virtual reality experience secondhand can only get people so excited. Can VR content create a buzz as well as other types of content today?
The positive of course are you have a captive audience, can tell an exciting narrative that the headset wearer can immerse them self completely in. The negative is that it is very much a solo experience. There are lots of limitations too. For instance,the Oculus Rift doesn’t have the ability for you to see your body. Seems to me this was an oversight by Merrell to use Oculus when they could have used a different technology and showcased their new product line to the headset wearer by allowing them to look down and see themselves wearing their new hiking boots.
The fact that Facebook owns Oculus, Sony has launched a PS4 VR console, and that Samsung and HTC have all put money behind the new generation of headsets makes me inclined to hypothesize that the issues with “virality” in this medium may be overcome in 2017.
For the skeptics out there who may disagree with me, just remember that although the first generation of VR created in the ’90’s phased out fairly quickly, so did the first try at smartphones in the 90’s as well (Simon).