Came across another VR article from my previous blog, this one from 1995. It's interesting to see articles appearing in the ad trades once again talking about VR for advertising purposes. And while Arthur C Clarke's prediction has not come true yet, I have no doubt that VR and AR will play a more significant role on the future of entertainment that we can picture today.
Back when I started in VR, I called the work I was doing Experiential Advertising™, which I defined as the ability to enter and interact with a marketing message and I still think it will be a standard marketing tool in the future. It was a powerful experience back then, with people waiting on line for hours to put on the head mount and experience VR, usually for the first time. But, there wasn't enough content or compelling experiences to justify the enourmous cost of the experience back then. The headmount display that we used cost $150,000 along; the computer was $750,000 and probably had less computing power than the Surface Pro 3 I'm using to write this.
Back in the 90's when I started, we had to create all kinds of tools to help people understand what we were talking about. For example, here's how we defined Experiential Advertising™ back then:
Experiential Advertising is one of the most innovative applications for virtual reality technology. For the first time, consumers will be able to enter and, more importantly, interact with a corporate marketing message. The possibilities are endless. From traveling through the human body to playing a virtual football game, consumers will be able to experience almost any marketing world. Virtual reality offers the ultimate sampling opportunity and will present a clutter-breaking event that will draw attention to any product. Experiential Advertising is an excellent opportunity to influence the buying decision of today's sophisticated consumer.
And with VR and AR estimated to be a $150 billion business, it's exciting to see all of the attention it's getting again.
Original Blog Post
Was using the Google search timeline function (which is pretty cool, BTW) and came across this article from 1995. I said some pretty smart things, if I do say so myself! And this was really a fun gig to work on, kinda' miss my event days sometimes.
"When Joe six-pack can sit on his sofa," a delegate at Apple Computer's recent New Media conference in Los Angeles, said, "with Cindy Crawford in one arm, perhaps for $2.99 an hour, virtual reality will make crack look like decaffeinated coffee. "
Virtual reality., with its 3D picture of a made-up world, is a godsend in persuasion, since it provides the user with his own path through an information universe. But are advertisers ready for virtual reality as a marketing tool yet?
Virtual reality can be a simple three-dimensional world on a computer screen, through which the customer moves using the keyboard or a joystick. Or it might be "immersive", requiring a headset that displays a panoramic world. Either way, objects on the screen can be viewed, queried, selected or bought.
J. Walter Thompson took up the virtual-reality theme in a Kit Kat commercial this year. The film's director, Matt Forrest, set the action in a virtual-reality shopping mall, which a character flies through on a hi-tech magic carpet looking for a snack. "Sooner or later, someone was going to do a virtual-reality ad," the JWT creative director, Jaspar Shelbourne, says. "And I am very pleased JWT got there first."
Involvement is important, but a more measurable facet of interactive media is the feedback it offers on how a product is perceived. By letting a potential customer drive a "virtual car", for instance, the manufacturer can find out how attractive it is before the car is even built, perhaps giving the customer a discount guarantee if they commit to buying at such a nearly stage.
From her base in California, Aimee Rosewall, an independent marketing consultant, has watched virtual-reality technology develop. She sees it as a fragile extension of the traditional one-to-one selling relationship. "Rather than coming and talking at you, I can involve you in my message." she explains. "The problem with the way most modern technology is handled in marketing is that it is too complicated, or expects too much from people to make it happen. The danger is you have customers who are more confused than they were at the beginning."
One of the most impressive virtual-reality marketing applications to date is the Cutty Sark rum stand. currently touring the US. Rosewall helped Anheuser-Busch put the project together with the New York-based tour managers, CyberEvent. A visitor to the stand wears a headset while sitting on a small wooden bench with a boat's tiller in one hand.
In this virtual world, they experience the voyages of Captain William McCoy as he sailed his rum around the world. Steering the ship with the tiller, the Cutty Sark -- with brand name prominent -- is guided into harbour. On either side, other rum traders unload their products and, the soundtrack explains, water down their rum before selling it. Captain McCoy insisted on keeping his rum pure and, in doing so, coined the phrase "the real McCoy".
Dave Polinchock, the president of CyberEvent, thinks the Cutty Sark campaign is successful simply because it does not confuse the brand with the technology. Early experiments with virtual reality made a point of showing off the latest state-of-the art developments, but campaign managers found they were outshining the very product they were supposed to sell. "In the early 90s, people were using virtual reality as the story, rather than using it to tell the story," Polinchock says.
The first lesson for using any technology in marketing, he says, is to make the technology invisible and work on the content, not forgetting that people like to have fun. (Emphasis mine)
And entertainment is one of the three core values Paul Holt at CIA Interactive puts forward for virtual reality. As a consultant to British Telecom's ICE (Information, Communications and Entertainment) project, which is researching how to deliver commercial services into people's homes, Holt sees the technology providing a new angle, but it remains secondary to the message. "Inform, communicate and entertain. As long as you do one of those, you'll be fine," he says.
There are some significant obstacles to using virtual reality, not least the fact that badly understood technology results in an uncertain message being communicated to the user. Over-complicated technologies, or computers for their own sake, promote technophobia and turn people away from the message.
To this end, Holt suggests that anyone considering virtual reality should be thoroughly familiar with two-dimensional interactive media, such as the Internet, before moving into three. Learning to be creative with the online medium is a valuable lesson in how to construct a path around information that would be too dense in a linear format. The user must also be able to retreat still carrying a clear image of the brand.
It's obvious really. Polinchock uses what is becoming a wellknown metaphor in North American marketing: "If you went to a book conference and said you thought content was important, they'd look at you as if you were a moron. Yet we're talking like content is something new." (Emphasis mine)
Europe has an especially reserved approach to cutting-edge technology. Rosewall thinks it could be an advantage: "Europe will take a different route, and a little reservation could be beneficial. America is always pushing for the new, but faster may not be the answer anymore."
This is not a warning to keep away, however. "Mix the technologies," she says. "You can't just invest in one technology because you'll miss someone, and that doesn't make business sense."
COPYRIGHT 1995 Haymarket Business Publications Ltd.
What do you do in the early 90's when your client wants 26 HMD's? Create an immersive animation theater!