With Google’s recent announcement that it now has a working virtual reality advertising prototype, the scramble to jump on the VR bandwagon is officially on.
Virtual reality has long been a talked-about way of improving engagement in advertising and marketing, but Google’s foray into the field provides a much needed tangible representation that it VR ads can, actually, be done.
In a recently released demo video, the prototype (called Advr) has a 3D floating cube that, when clicked or simply viewed inside a mobile VR app, activates a video advertisement.
It seems minor—especially since it’s not even a full-fledged product offering yet—but it’s really the first glimpse we’ve gotten at what kind of potential VR can offer Google’s huge network of advertisers.
Virtual Reality Ad Examples
Google isn’t the only company experimenting in the VR space. Team One, an ad agency in California, recently built a lab facility to develop virtual reality advertising techniques—and they’ve even produced some VR ads, too.
Most notably, the firm created a 360-degree Lexus ad for a virtual reality episode of ABC’s Quantico.
Toms also used VR in a marketing campaign to get customers on board with its charitable mission, while Mercedes leveraged it to give potential buyers a realistic tour—and scenic drive—of its newest SL model vehicle.
A few other brands who have tried their hand at virtual advertising, too. Nascar recently did it with an immersive, VR race, and Oreo, Expedia, GE and Lipton have also had a go at it.
Still, despite these high-profile stints into VR, the number of virtual reality ad examples out there is pretty minimal. That’s likely because there are a few hiccups in the process:
1) It requires specialized knowledge (hence Team One’s lab) or specialized outside vendors
2) It hasn’t really been proven yet
3) Many advertisers simply just don’t know how best to use it
What Stands Out About Google’s VR Ads
Many have worried that VR ads could be too intrusive. After all, who wants to find themselves in a real-life commercial? More importantly, who wants to have their immersive, exciting game interrupted by forced advertisements and pushy promos?
With these sorts of thoughts, it’s easy for advertisers to fear VR; couldn’t the ads just turn consumers off their brand for good?
Google’s Advr prototype shows we can put many of these worries aside. Offering a subtle way to integrate ads into the VR experience, Google’s ad is interactive—but not overwhelming. It’s pushed, but not forced. It’s high-tech but still simple.
As Google’s developers put it, “our work focuses on a few key principles: VR ad formats should be easy for developers to implement and useful and non-intrusive for users.”
And that’s going to be key moving forward with VR advertising.
What We Know About Virtual Reality Advertising
While we don’t have too much info on the efficacy of VR ads at the moment, we do know the potential they hold—particularly for online retailers.
According to a recent study by Ericsson ConsumerLab, e-commerce (specifically “seeing items in real size and form when shopping online”) is the single most popular reason mobile users show interest in VR.
Many retailers have taken this to heart, too. Cadillac offers virtual dealerships, and as I mentioned earlier, Mercedes offers that VR experience for its new SL model.
E-commerce aside, VR also offers advertisers the ability to provide an experience, and through that experience create an emotional connection with the user, entertain them, or even share a message or vision with them. When used properly, there’s a lot of power and possibility in these strategies.
What You Can Do Now with VR Ads
VR is a big enough deal for megalith brands like Google and Facebook (who purchased Oculus in 2014) to invest in. And that in itself speaks volumes.
But regardless of where it all stands now, VR is poised to play a major role in how we advertise and market in the coming years—and Google’s recent promo is likely only the beginning.
At the moment, we’re all just playing the waiting game. Google’s Advr was just a demo, and Facebook still has its VR developments in the works.
Aside from the few big agencies delving into the VR space, all we can do now is just keep our eyes on the horizon. Only time will tell what’s next for this game-changing tech.