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What Will Advertisements Look Like in VR?

As VR entertainment and experiences continue to grow each year, the growth of VR advertisements seems inevitable—but will they be immersive or interruptive?

This past week, Unity Technologies unveiled key components of its advertising strategy, notably including the “Virtual Room,” a customizable mini app for brands to create their own integrated experiences. In seeking to further the conversation around how creators can monetize their content, this effort marks a clear progression of the company’s stated mission of democratizing development for creators in the XR landscape.

“What [Virtual Room is] not is a micro app that a creator spends millions and millions of dollars distributing,” said Julie Shumaker, Unity Vice President of business development of advertising in June at Unite Europe 2017. “…[T]hink of it as an easter egg or a hidden target behind the wall. The user chooses to follow Alice through the looking glass.”

The Virtual Room will be a part of the storyline, play for 30-60 seconds, and players have the option to explore in an exchange for some type of reward or benefit.

The new Virtual Room is being launched in partnership with Lionsgate for a new interactive VR ad promoting Jigsaw, the newest film in the Saw horror series.

The experience will launch this fall, and players will be asked to interact with objects as they learn more about the new film, and ultimately decide how to save themselves from impending doom—similar to the concept of the Sawfilms.

“Diehard franchise fans and new horror buffs alike are in store for a truly visceral and entertainment experience that’s sure to thrill,” said Lionsgate’s SVP of Digital Marketing, David Edwards in a statement. “As big believers in the power of immersive storytelling, we are incredibly excited to bring Jigsaw into the world of VR.”

The question remains: what does the future of advertising within VR look like and how will consumers respond?

Young people tend to spend money more on experiences than objects according to a 2016 survey by the Harris Group, which found 72 percent of millennials opting for experiences rather than material goods. So is it possible advertisements in the form of an interaction will be better received than banner ads or product integration?

Companies like ADVR are moving forward in full belief that they will.

“When people go to games, and especially VR, they are looking to discover something,” said ADVR CEO Arnaud Dazin, in an interview with GamesBeat. “There are ways to show sponsored content in a way that complements the experience. But that involves trust.”

Google is also experimenting with ads in VR with an Area 120 project (also called Advr), which presents mobile users with a cube of options for ads and then plays a video ad based on the selection.

With a major player like Unity jumping into the fray, creators have more access than ever in deciding what presence advertising and marketing elements can play in their experiences. Of course, it’s the consumers who will decide what (if any) types of branded interactions will work in immersive environments—setting the pace for this multi-billion dollar industry.

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