Through trial and error, early adopters of 360-degree video and virtual reality (VR) are discovering ways to use the medium and are gaining valuable insight into where the opportunities are for interactive marketing.
Last week, VS Media, a Hong Kong-based media company and multi-channel network (MCN), engaged in a 360 video shoot with Chinese fashion influencer, Han Huo Huo. The goal was to create an immersive fashion travelogue of Hong Kong with Han as the guide.
Campaign Asia-Pacific talked to Ivy Wong, founder and CEO of VS Media, about the experience and the company’s leap into 360 video and VR, as well as her observations of VR around the region.
Han Huo Huo and VS Media team on the 360 video travelogue shoot
Tell us about the aim of the travelogue project with Han Huo Huo and why VS Media has gone down the path of 360 video and VR?
YouTube introduced VR in March 2015 and made them available for video ads a few months later. On 23 September 2015, Facebook rolled out support for 360-degree videos on the social network. Tencent also launched its VR platform in November and started looking for 360 video content partners.
VS Media partners with a VR production team from LA that is dedicated to producing content series in 360 video formats focusing on things like travelogues, music videos, game competitions and 360 dramas. Unfortunately, we can't mention the name of the company until we release the 360 video.
As the most famous fashion key opinion leader (KOL) in China, Han has more than 5 million social-media fans. These fans are also very keen to know what he wears, what trends he predicts, and how he enjoys life.
VS Media invited Han to be the host of a 360 video travelogue to show his fans how to enjoy a day in the city of Hong Kong. In the 360 video, Han will show his fans how to enjoy the scenery and the wider lifestyle of Hong Kong, explore local shops and enjoy a cup of coffee, rather than just focus on shopping.
360 video technology was crucial in showing the stunning scenery and view of Hong Kong harbour. Through 360 video, audiences can choose the angle they want to view, and feel more like they are travelling with Han. We feel that 360 video and a travelogue-style experience are a perfect match in terms of medium and content.
Are there any commercial partnerships, brand placements, calls-to-action, or digital and ecommerce extensions such as geo-tagging in the 360 video?
For the first Hong Kong episode that we have planned, we don't have any brand engagement and partnerships. We open to partnerships in the upcoming episodes.
Yes, we will embed call-to-action in the coming 360 videos. Exactly as what you mentioned, users will be able to click on the pair of shoes Han tries on and go straight to purchasing it. At other touchpoints, it can lead to a restaurant, airticket and hotel booking. The only thing we can't do right now is geo-based calls-to-action.
How is 360 video opening up opportunities for brands and advertisers?
360 video can help audiences engage more with content and it puts users right into the video. Through 360 video, data shows that audiences normally spend more time and engage more, which gives brands and advertisers a much better chance to interact with their audiences.
Big brands are starting to make 360 videos. For example, coffee brand Nescafé launched a 360-degree music video published on Facebook featuring real people at breakfast from different countries starting their day with a mug of Nescafé.
During this year’s IAA Motor Show in Frankfurt, Mercedes Benz incorporated 360 video to present some of their newly invented concept cars.
As part of its "#StrongCan" campaign, telecom giant AT&T and BBDO shot a 360-degree video of race-car driver Ben Albano streaming his practice laps to his coach who was in another state, which demonstrated AT&T's wireless network.
Samsung and Cheil Worldwide’s people to "#BeFearless" campaign saw the brand and agency produce a 360-degree video that took people on top of New Zealand's tallest man-made structure, the Sky Tower in Auckland.
Local examples of 360 video I've seen recently include the 62nd Macau Grand Prix, a virtual tour of the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery (萬佛寺), Super Summer 2015 (荔園), the Toyota Sienta and Spade car sneek peek, and the Hong Kong Starwars fan parade at Hong Kong Disneyland.
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How do you ensure that 360 video and VR is used effectively to communicate a story and experience that isn’t just gimmicky?
Producing a 360 video is actually getting easier. There are also more 360 cameras available on the market now. However, shooting and producing a 360 video is totally different from producing a normal video.
The key to creating successful 360 videos is how brands and advertisers tell a story in the video. The creative challenge now is how to engage with audiences while they are in the VR world. This is something that everyone is still experimenting with. When we shot Han's travelogue, the camera sort became Han's friend. We decided to go with a vlog-style approach so it seems that Han is addressing the viewer directly through the video and leading them to different places.
What’s your advice for doing 360 video and VR for content marketing purposes?
It goes back to storytelling. You need time to really work out a good story and design each interaction point very carefully. The mentality of producing a 360 video is different and producers will need to change their approach. You will need a new way to do pre-production, production and editing.
Brands and advertisers should start thinking about how to involve their brand or place their products in 360 video series rather than spend too much money and time to learn how to produce a 360 video.
How do you see 360 video and VR evolving as a creative medium?
360 videos are becoming popular among individual creators and YouTubers, who often have limited budgets and technical resources. Many times, audiences put more trust in their opinions because they feel a personal connection to the creator. Now audiences can actually interact closer and become more intimate with their idols through 360 video.
Internationally reknowned YouTube creator, Zach King created and launched his first 360 video on 22 September.
Equipment and technology is becoming more cost effective and this is likely to foster the 360 video ecosystem and help it to grow faster as more people producing 360 video content.
Another thing is the VR glasses are also getting a lot cheaper. The Google cardboard for example is only at US$23. Audiences can really enjoy 360 video without any limit.