How to create your first virtual reality campaign

You’ve probably heard virtual reality (VR) is the future. But what is it exactly? And how do you launch your first campaign?

The good news is that creating a VR campaign is unbelievably simple.

But before we explain how to create your own VR campaign in three easy steps, here’s a little background info about what VR actually is, and where it comes from… 

What is virtual reality (VR)?

The definition of VR is still ambiguous, but most people agree on a few key features:

  • there’s no point of view or camera angle – instead, the user is totally immersed in a 3D environment
  • it’s participatory, meaning the user can control the experience
  • it feels realistic

Take that last one with a pinch of salt. ‘Realistic’ doesn’t mean that the subject matter has to feel like real life. Rather it means the experience itself is so fluid that the user can easily forget they are in a simulation.

The litmus test will always be the Uncanny Valley: 99.9% of the time, you can just tell when something is simulated. The aim, then, is to keep as close as possible to that 0.1%.

How long has VR been around?

Well, it depends how you define it. 

The first ever head-mounted display (HMD) was created by Ivan Sutherland in 1965 for a project he called ‘the ultimate display’. The screen displayed isometric shapes superimposed on a 3D environment, which the user could see from multiple angles by turning their head. Today, we would probably say this is closer to augmented reality (AR).

The first full appearance of three-dimensional virtual reality within a fully-rendered environment was in the video game Battlezone, released in 1980.

Behold: once the cutting edge of video game graphics.

But VR as we know it today didn’t hit the mainstream until the release of Oculus Rift in March 2016. And while it was a flop with consumers, it did spur software developers to bring VR to mobile and desktop. Now we can experience virtual reality through Facebook, YouTube and many other platforms.

This has inspired other manufacturers and tech firms – including HTC, Google, Apple, Samsung, Sony and Microsoft – to start competing in the virtual reality space.

So why is now the right time to try VR? And who’s doing it well?

With so many developers and manufacturers racing to be the best, we are in the middle of a VR gold rush – which, as marketers, we are perfectly poised to take advantage of.

In fact, 3 in 4 of the world’s biggest brands have already started using VR in their marketing strategies. Here are just a few that have had recent success with VR:

New York Times: NYT sent their digital subscribers a cardboard headset with a link to download an exclusive video. The headsets reached one-third of their subscribers and the video was downloaded 600,000 times. The ultimate effect, according to the Digital Marketing Institute, was an uplift in brand loyalty which many suggest helped retain subscribers.

charity:water: ‘The Source’ is a mini-movie told through VR that puts viewers in the world of 13-year-old Selam from Ethiopia, as she goes to collect her daily water rations. As well as helping to collect email addresses via its website, The Source was watched by 150 million people worldwide. At the time of its release, donors pledged $2.4 million, with one generous person giving $400,000.

IKEA: Designing the interior of your home involves a lot of guesswork – unless, of course, you design the room in VR first. That’s exactly what IKEA’s in-store virtual reality campaign allowed shoppers to do. And, while it was only available in select stores for a limited time, it succeeded in generating some great PR – over 1,200 articles worldwide – while also setting the standard for the future of interior design.

That’s all well and good – but how do I make my first VR campaign?

Well, you could hire a team of developers and graphics artists to create a simulated 3D world with all sorts of interactive elements and artificially intelligent characters… but that would use a lot of time and money.

If this is your first foray into VR, you needn’t make it complicated. In fact, you could launch a VR campaign today in just three simple steps:

  1. Grab a 3D camera and shoot some footage
  2. Edit your footage in Adobe Premier
  3. Upload it to a video source or VR player that can handle 3D video (including YouTube and Facebook)

See? You needn’t go to too much effort just yet. All you need to get started on VR right now is an idea, a 3D camera and some video-editing software.

This video shows how one real estate company is creating awesome VR marketing videos with just a single 3D camera. 

Simply buy or hire your 3D camera online before heading out to film your scenes. If that’s too much hassle, many film agencies will handle the process for you. 

Once you’ve got your raw footage, edit it in Adobe Premier (or another suite capable of handling 3D video) to include transitions, filters, text – and perhaps even more complex techniques like tracking:

If you’re ever stuck for ideas, YouTube has thousands of tutorials to help you learn all sorts of editing tricks. 

Finally, save your video into a VR-ready file format (ideally 180 VR or 360 VR) then upload it to a media player that can display 3D video, such as Facebook or YouTube.

Once the video file is ready to go, the user can explore the environment by clicking and dragging or, if they’ve donned a headset, by turning their head to change direction.

What about all the complicated stuff like interacting with objects?

Well, that might have to wait for a separate article. Until then, you can teach yourself some basic VR programming skills just by playing about in a VR studio.

There are already loads of studio options out there, many with extensive tutorials and toolkits included. Unity, for instance, has a toolkit containing over 60 VR building solutions.

This is all well and good but, err… how do I come up with a great campaign?

Sounds like a job for a highly-skilled, full-service creative content agency.

At Sticky Content, our team of writers, designers and creative experts can help you come up with a VR campaign that will launch your brand into the future of content marketing (we’re good value for money, too.)

We’ll start with the basics: What message are you trying to share? What platform is best for your audience? What’s the tone and mood? What characters will be portrayed? How will the campaign be measured – and how can we hit those targets?

By working with our experienced strategists, you can create an interesting, exciting and effective message that will feel natural in any VR environment, and for any audience.

Then, once your video is live, our content strategists can help ensure it fulfils its objectives by reaching the right people.

If you’re looking to launch your first VR campaign, why not work with us?

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