How VR and AR Will Reshape Media

David Berkowitz, Principal, Serial Marketer
David Berkowitz, Principal, Serial Marketer

By David Berkowitz, Principal, Serial Marketer

The rising adoption of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) by advertisers and consumers will deliver transformative creative experiences. Yet as much as creative and production shops will need to change to meet the new artistic and technical demands, media shops will face the more critical questions.

At this point, VR and AR technologies are experiencing the kind of arms race that drove the success of social networks, messaging apps and smartphones. Sony, Samsung, Microsoft and HTC are among the hardware stalwarts making major investments. If creative shops can’t keep up with the changes, then publishers like The New York Times, Condé Nast and Disney will fill the void. Google, Facebook and Snapchat are among those that bring hybrid models: hardware, software and creative studios. If there’s a creative director dying to work in 360-degree, immersive palettes (VR) or add digital layers over the real world (AR)—and her agency is lagging—there are other kinds of companies where she can hone her talents.

However, media planners and buyers need to navigate much murkier questions, as they will impact the economics of scaling branded VR and AR experiences. Here are some of the issues that must be addressed:

  • How much value stems from a branded AR filter, such as an animated border of a Snapchat image?
  • How much more value does a branded AR filter provide the consumer who selects it, given they opt in to selecting that brand’s imagery, versus the recipients who are passively consuming it?
  • Consider whether a brand has two options: Get 1 million views for a 10-second branded video (essentially, a short commercial), or get 1 million views for a filter that surrounds consumers’ 10-second videos. Which is more valuable, and by what magnitude?
  • How do you compare highly customized native offerings across publishers and platforms?
  • For 360-degree videos, are some viewing angles worth more than others? For instance, if the brand logo is visible when panning to the right but not when panning to the left, how much will that affect brand recall?
  • Are 360-degree video and VR views worth more in focused environments such as headsets (e.g., Oculus Rift, Google Daydream View) than when viewed on the web just by using a smartphone or PC?
  • What are the best ways to buy various VR and AR offerings? Views? Time spent? Some kind of interaction or engagement? Shares?
  • In a 360-degree or VR video, define “completion”. For a point of reference, consider a game like “Super Mario Bros”. When completing the game, you can do so by playing it linearly, level by level; playing it by using shortcuts that skip over levels; or playing it repeatedly to discover every facet of the game. What determines a completed VR view when viewing it once straight through misses most of the experience?
  • How does viewability work in headset-driven experience? (For example, an ad that appears within a VR game, like a logo in a virtual sports stadium, is on the screen.) When does it truly count? Does it need to be in focus, and the literal center of attention? Is it possible to rack up large numbers of views that go unnoticed? And what quality controls can prevent ads placed outside of the field of vision from counting as a view?

These are just starting points. VR and AR will get more fragmented and complex before they become simpler and scalable. Right now, the best way to prepare for the challenges ahead is to try before you buy. Even without spending a dollar on a cheap VR headset, spend time with ads and branded content available from Facebook, Google, The New York Times and Snapchat, among others. Figure out what’s new, and what hasn’t changed. Then start asking any of these questions, and others you think matter, to publishers and partners. Educate your clients early and often with your findings.

Interested in more from David Berkowitz on AR and VR? Check out his upcoming session “Current and Future Possibilities with AR and VR”, on December 7, 1–2pm ET