The New York Times created its own Virtual Reality App, putting viewers right at the heart of news events across the globe. The app launch saw the newspaper distribute more than 1m Google Cardboard headsets, giving some indication as to the move VR is making into the mass market.
The anticipated surge has thrown the medium into sharp relief for marketers, with many busy pencilling VR into their 2016 budgets. General Electric (GE), one of the early adopters, has been experimenting with VR for a year, and launched a VR animated video on the New York Times app. GE’s global chief marketing officer Linda Boff, believes VR has the potential to revolutionise marketing. “For the brand and user the intimacy of VR is really dramatic,” she says. “It’s a tool to tell a powerful story in a way that’s much more personal and up close than we’d normally be able to.”
However, advertisers need to tread carefully. Because of its immersive nature, consumers will be much less forgiving of a bad VR ad than they would of a poorly made TV commercial. “Watching badly conceived VR can make you feel sick for the rest of the day,” says Patrick Milling Smith, co-founder of Vrse.works, the VR company behind Apple’s recent VR music video for U2. Milling Smith is keen to stress that VR does not operate like any other medium. “VR is as different to film as film is to radio … It’s a different storytelling language,” he says. “There needs to be restraint in VR. You can’t just slap a logo on a piece of branding.”