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In depth: Exploring virtual reality as a marketing tool

Toying with virtual reality – a relatively new concept in India – an automobile company experimented with the tool, while an airline went ahead to make a feature film. BestMediaInfo.com spoke to experts to get an understanding of how brands are picking up virtual reality in India

Archit Ambekar | Mumbai | June 15, 2016

Virtual Reality

In the advertising and marketing world, the latest buzz word is ‘virtual reality’ (VR). Brands are increasingly trying to figure their way into this space to interact with consumers. Used as a marketing tool globally, India too is picking up this trend of virtual reality.

A recent example of a brand doing a VR activity on a large scale was for Tata Tiago. The automobile major gave a virtual reality experience to about 2.5 million consumers by distributing Google cardboards with The Times of India, a few months back. Another recent one was Etihad Airways. The airline used the platform to make a feature film starring popular Hollywood actress ‘Nicole Kidman.’ The film was an attempt to show a 360 degree view of the aircraft by just sitting at home. The airline chose to release it on the digital platform and its website.

This model that is changing the digital landscape is allowing creativity to go beyond boundaries. In order to get an understanding of how brands are picking up virtual reality in India, BestMediaInfo.com spoke to industry experts.

[caption id="attachment_67289" align="alignleft" width="150"]Ashish-Limaye-top Ashish Limaye[/caption]

Sharing his views, Ashish Limaye, CEO, APAC, Happy Finish, said, “Virtual reality is used in a lot of industries. Alcoholic beverages are looking at using it in a big way. Telecom operators are trying to use to provide seamless connectivity. Automobile, real estate, life sciences and medical are already using it extensively for business purposes.”

[caption id="attachment_71865" align="alignright" width="150"]Arnav Ghosh Arnav Ghosh[/caption]

Speaking about experimenting with virtual reality, Arnav Ghosh, MD, Blippar India, said, “Many brands have started experimenting with the format. The possibilities of telling a story, transporting the user into the story and making the user interact with the footage are some of its many benefits. Brands are all about making that emotional connect with their consumers and if the consumers can walk away having a profound experience, their job is done.”

At a consumer level, very few brands have used it. Tata Tiago is one of them. There are certain barriers in the way of taking virtual reality to the consumer. Limaye says, “The first barrier is distribution. For a television commercial, one only has to give the campaign to channels where a distribution network has been set up. For VR, one needs a Google cardboard, Samsung gear or an Oculus to consume the content.”

Another barrier according to Limaye is of the right ecosystem of content. Storytelling in virtual reality has a long way to go. People are still getting the hang of virtual reality. It is at a nascent stage in India and in the globe. Media agencies are looking at the medium but ad agencies haven’t started thinking that way yet. Investment and distribution still remain a challenge, he says.

Backing Limaye, Ghosh is of the opinion that the technology required for virtual reality isn’t mainstream yet, it is beyond the reach of marketers and hence the format hasn’t gotten its scale yet.

Asked if virtual reality is worthwhile, Ghosh says it is being used more for public relations (PR) currently than for an actual experience by brands in India. Ghosh agrees with Limaye about the cost being high when it comes to logistics.

Ghosh says creative minds are thinking of making 360 degree videos. He said, “With the advent of internet, digital media and creative technologies are providing more advertising opportunities at affordable prices than ever before. Brands can now reach their specific audience demographic instead of assumption around the television programmes. In case of technology like Blippar, it can be leveraged to tell your story straight off the product when it’s in your consumers hands. From running their beloved TVC to sharing a selfie, playing a game, trying on a watch, jewellery, shoe or apparels, winning a contest and so on -- all is possible at that very moment of truth.”

[caption id="attachment_71866" align="alignleft" width="150"]Vitek Goyel Vitek Goyel[/caption]

On the other hand, Vitek Goyel, CEO and Founder, Pixeltek, has already received a positive response from business partners on the VR front. Goyel says that while brands are using it for business purposes now, they will soon be consumer-driven. He said, “Hero Homes is using VR to give consumers a view of the township before it is built. They have set up an experience centre in Mohali for the same.”

Goyel too feels brands will slowly start using it. “We are on a par with global standards when it comes to virtual reality.” Goyel has the same opinion as Limaye and Ghosh. He says, “Distribution is not a problem in India, it is a problem globally. The headsets are available in limited amounts and taking that experience to masses still has a long way. While brands are experimenting, virtual reality feature films have a long way to go.”

A team member from Pixeltek explains that since the viewing is still not clear many a time, the viewer can tend to have a bad experience. Hence the shorter format works well. Goyel adds, “Apart from that, content makes a huge difference. One needs to provide good content to keep the viewer engaged for five minutes. That remains another challenge.”

Limaye and Goyel both feel that more devices will come in the market to develop the industry.

[caption id="attachment_71867" align="alignright" width="150"]Arunava Sengupta Arunava Sengupta[/caption]

Giving a creative input, Arunava Sengupta, Founder Director, Scarecrow communications, said, “In the Indian scenario, VR is still not used to its full potential. What we see here has no comparison globally. We are far behind in this space. Apart from that, virtual reality is an expensive platform for the advertiser. It is not as easy as producing a TVC. One has to take a 360 degree view of all possible actions. The brands that are already working on it have done limited activities in their purview. A much larger scope can be explored.”

Sengupta adds, “When it comes to virtual reality films, like the one Etihad Airways did, brands in India have a long way to go. One main challenge for brands in India is they don’t spend much. They have limited marketing budgets which they span out during the year and VR is not on their list. Like I said earlier, VR is expensive and it is not likely to give the reach that a television or digital medium will give in today’s scenario.”

SBI Life is also doing an augmented reality act on Father’s Day. This is the first time a life insurer is attempting to engage with the audience in Mumbai and Kolkata. An anonymous spokesperson from the team spoke to us, mentioning how augmented reality is a part of virtual reality.

The idea behind doing this campaign was to give a better experience to the consumer. That is where virtual reality comes in place in getting closer to the consumer. He agrees that the film that Etihad Airways did was an attempt to enrich the consumer experience. These activities in India if used by brands in a better way will only create more enriching experiencing for the consumers.

Uber India is also doing an activity with One Plus to launch the VR experience for consumers in different cities. Some FMCG conglomerates are also in the process of creating a VR experience for the consumers. It is only in the next five years that we will see a noticeable change in this field. While brands are looking at using it, creative minds are also trying to integrate virtual reality as a part of their strategies.

Info@BestMediaInfo.com

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