Matthew Miller
Mar 17, 2015

Birth by virtual reality: Samsung reaches too far in Gear VR video

AUSTRALIA - The technology of virtual-reality bridges thousands of kilometers to help a dad be present for his child's birth in a new online film for Samsung. But is the admittedly touching story the right approach for the product?

Client: Samsung Electronics Australia

Agency: Leo Burnett Sydney

Market: Australia

Campaign scope: In what is billed as the "world's first live streaming virtual reality birth", the brand and its agency partners created a setup that allowed a father to witness and to some extent participate in the birth of his child despite being 4,000 km away for work.

Press release quotes:

Arno Lenior, chief marketing officer, Samsung Electronics Australia: “The Samsung Gear VR technology is exciting, but what we are even more proud of are the amazing, emotion-charged experiences made possible by eliminating physical and geographic barriers and delivering new ways to experience immersive content. We are connecting people in ways never before thought possible to ensure Aussies don’t miss those significant moments which life is really all about.”

Andy DiLallo, chief creative officer, Leo Burnett Sydney: “This goes beyond what the technology does and how it works—it’s about how it touches and changes peoples’ lives in new and compelling ways by allowing them to be part of experiences that they would otherwise miss. In Jace and Alison’s story, that was sharing the miracle of birth through the miracle of technology. This is about harnessing the potential for truly remarkable shared connections that are at the core of the human experience.”

Campaign Asia Pacific's comments: We covered another video for Samsung's Gear VR recently, and we wouldn't normally discuss more work for the same product by the same agency. But we're making an exception this time because although it is undeniably touching, we find this stunt to be somewhat misleading about the product's capabilities.

The setup required a special camera and streaming equipment in the birthing room. This isn't mentioned in the video except for a virtually illegible fine-print disclaimer at the very end (and in the press materials we received). The video contains a shot or two of the sci-fi looking multi-sensor camera that's required to create the virtual world the father experiences, but only tech-savvy viewers would realise what that is.

We're not saying Samsung set out to deceive. Clearly, it set out to create a compelling demonstration of what's possible with the headgear product. And it succeeded.

However, it also created an impression, at least for many viewers, that the Gear VR currently supports virtual-reality communication, which it does not—not without the special equipment. The agency is essentially selling a USP that doesn't really exist without a lot of help.

Note that Leo Burnett engaged another agency to help with the execution, which gives some idea how unusual and inaccessible this is for the average consumer. For the amount spent on this project, it's quite likely the father could have flown home to experience the birth in reality-reality.

The quotes provided in the release (above) do little to clear up the confusion. We won't say they make false claims, but they certainly create an impression that something is possible even though it is not—not unless 360-degree cameras and streaming setups and teams of techies are included with each headset.

In reality, Gear VR is a headset into which you insert your Samsung phone. Its main use, at least in the short term, will be for playing games or enjoying other immersive content prepared in advance by professionals using expensive equipment. There's nothing in the world wrong with that, and the previous video did a good job of selling the benefits (although we had a different complaint in that case).

Here, the brand reaches too far, creates confusion about what's actually possible and thereby risks setting up unrealistic expectations. Which seems unwise, especially for a product category where reality has failed to live up to hype so many times before.

CREDITS

SAMSUNG
Chief Marketing Officer: Arno Lenior
Head of Marketing Communications: Ian Bell
Group Marketing Manager: Ana Vrinat
Marketing Manager, TELCO: Bianca Da Silva
Assistant Marketing Manager, DI: Michelle Carter
Head of Corporate Affairs: Richard Noble
Corporate Affairs Manager: Shaneez Johnston

LEO BURNETT
Chief Creative Officer: Andy DiLallo
Worldwide Chief Creative Officer: Mark Tutssel
Executive Creative Director: Vince Lagana
Executive Creative Director: Grant McAloon
Creative Director: Sharon Edmondston
Creative Director: Misha McDonald
Art Director: Vince Lagana
Copywriter: Grant McAloon
Executive Producer: Jeremy de Villiers
Design: Bruno Nakano and Jason Young
Client Services Director: Amanda Quested
Business Director: Laura Dowling

PRODUCTION COMPANY
Production Company: Rapid VR
Director (Perth): Dave Klaiber
Director (QLD): Taylor Steele
DOP (Perth): Earle Dresner
DOP (QLD): Ben Nott
Executive Producer: Susannah DiLallo
Casting Director: Toni Higginbotham Casting
VR Specialist: Dan White
Production Manager (Perth): Lizzi Topen
Production Manager (QLD): Garrett Robinson
Production Manager (SYD): Catherine Warner
Focus Puller (Perth): Eamon Dimmitt
Focus Puller (QLD): Jeremy Donohoe
Data Wrangler (QLD): Kareem Anti
Gaffer (QLD): Matthew Slattery 
Sound (Perth): Trevor Hope
Sound (QLD): Paul Jones
Runner (Perth): Matt Hodgkinson
Runner (QLD): Ashley Hooker

MUSIC
Music Soundtrack: All I want
Band: Kodaline
Sound Mix: We Love Jam

STARCOM
Account Director: Jacqui Purcell
Digital Account Director: Angelique Crusius

EDELMAN PR
Chief Operating Officer: Matthew Gain
Technical Product Specialist: Matthew Wu
Associate Director: Carla Webb
 

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