We recently sat down to chat with REWIND — an award-winning immersive content studio with a passion for VR. REWIND combines cutting edge technology with strategic thinking to create immersive virtual, physical and digital narratives for a variety of brands including HBO, Red Bull, Paramount, Lexus, Nike, Jaguar, and BBC.
In this part two of a two part series REWIND provides guidance to business decision makers at brands on how to approach VR, especially when working with an agency or studio.
Q: What questions should brands ask when approaching agencies about VR?
There is a plethora of different studios out there, so you need to be able to tell the good from the bad. Here are three key questions to ask:
1. What % of your revenue comes from AR/VR?
If AR/VR is a 5% revenue stream tacked on to larger services, assume the agency is not taking it seriously. To be great in this new and ever-evolving space, you have to be truly dedicated to figuring out the hard problems.
2. Can you tell me about the success of your last three high profile projects?
You need to establish that the studio you are considering has a good track record. Finding out if they have retained or repeat customers is a good sign that they are a trusted partner to work with. Many brands have dabbled in the immersive space, but if you can find a studio that has repeat business from big global brands, they’re likely doing something right.
3. Is VR the right solution for this brief?
You need an agency that will be open and honest enough to tell you that (if indeed it is the case!) VR isn’t the right media to use. Respect an agency that tells you ‘no’. ‘No’ allows each party to question the creative intent, discuss reshape, and in turn gain mutual respect. If you all agree that VR is indeed the right direction, then make sure you ask how they will tackle reach - they should have a good platform and marketing strategy.
Q: What should brands look for in a team when choosing a VR agency?
To make something great, you need great builders. Devs should be in-house, not outsourced. These days, too many “producers” pitch creative that can't be realised, because they don’t have a regular team of developers that they work with. It’s important to find a studio that meets your creative needs AND has the build team to execute.
The REWIND team is made up of a vast array of skill sets from a number of disciplines. With the ever evolving tech landscape, it’s important to have a nimble and flexible team. People who are curious and innate problem solvers are just as important, if not more so, than those with a high level of technical skill.
Q: When should a brand pursue VR?
Brands getting involved with VR shouldn’t be thinking about ads per se, but should be trying to make great content. Users aren’t just passively consuming a message, they’re participating in an experience the brand has fashioned. You can’t just recreate a TV commercial and hope that will work.
Experiences that maximize the immersive capabilities of VR can create moments that surpass anything in another medium. Presence allows you to live a story rather than being a passive observer. There’s no fourth wall, we’re not trying to suspend the disbelief, we’re instantly in it. We don’t have to try and tell you the narrative, or use cinematography or music and editing to trick you into believing you’re there – you are there. Story-living is the next generation of story-telling. If a brand has a great story to tell, VR can take it to the next level.
VR can also be incredibly useful if a brand is trying to connect with new audiences. For example, we reimagined Magic Flute and Madam Butterfly in VR for Welsh National Opera (WNO) as the company wanted to attract a younger demographic. It worked! The use of emerging technology attracted a different audience to the existing 45-80 year olds frequenting the opera.
Q: When is VR not the right approach for a brand?
When it’s just being used for tech sake’s and has no value to the consumer.
Q: How should brands measure success when it comes to VR? What metrics?
User engagement is a huge one. How are users engaging, and what are they engaging with? Are they maximising the experience, or are there blockers or areas that never get visited? Understanding user attention within VR has led REWIND to build internal tools that help us during user testing and QA - mapping where users are looking, positioning themselves, the typical routes through, etc. All incredibly valuable data that drives good and well considered design.
Currently, we are merely scratching the surface of the potential metrics we can draw from VR experiences. As the technology advances - think eye-tracking and biometrics - providing us with deeper insights which can be used to enhance and personalize the experience in real-time, VR will become an essential communication and engagement channel for brands.
Imagine an immersive experience that works out what you are enjoying the most during it, and dynamically shifts the content towards more of what you like in real-time. Seamlessly, you have created a unique campaign based on that single user. Personalization has been a marketing trend for a while now - this takes it to another level.
Q: What other lessons would you share with brands wanting to get started with VR?
As with other marketing channels, the idea is fundamental to success; and with these new mediums, arguably it’s even more so, due to the immersion and engagement of the user. Compelling content is king, without this it’s just tech.
Make sure that your VR content is user-centric. Just as you would test a TVC before airing it, you need to engage with the likely end user and assess their response in the scoping and development stages.
As the industry progresses at lightning speed and numerous studios claiming to be experts in creating immersive experiences spring up, brands and marketers need to ensure they are partnering with the right one; one that has the experience, track-record, creativity, and importantly, talented in-house developers who can turn the vision into a reality and create the best possible experience.