Men also lead the way in terms of affinity to the technology, with 55% expressing a strong interest in experiencing VR versus 40% of women. In terms of who consumers would like to see content from, the most popular two sources are from broadcasters like the BBC or Sky (41%), or on-demand services like Netflix (29%). However, a third are still unsure saying they do not know. Overall, there is a strong demand from consumers who feel interested and knowledgeable. They are open to many different types of experiences, providing opportunities for brands to create and capitalise on first mover advantages.
A breakthrough year
With virtual reality (VR) set to have its first billion-dollar year by the end of 2016, savvy marketers are seeking to tap into the platform’s storytelling power. The range of possibilities in VR makes it an exciting time for those who are involved in content creation. It’s great for branded content partnerships as it enables brands to tell stories in an immersive way, shifting from talking about brand values, to inviting people to feel them.
Does that mean VR has now gone mainstream? Certainly the noise surrounding it has. The Today programme on BBC Radio 4 ran stories on how it will affect our TV viewing habits in the future. Sky announced it has built a VR studio, and plans to release a virtual reality app in 2016. Companies are investing in the technology and it’s predicted that VR will become an $80bn market by 2025.
Not surprisingly, Google are taking a piece of the VR territory. They have launched the Tilt Brush that lets you paint in 3D space with VR. This allows you to turn your room into a blank canvas and create and edit your piece of art.
Music and travel raises high public interest
With all the hype around the platform, we were curious to learn about people’s attitudes towards the technology. There is a general perception that gamers are the main target audience, and our research finds this opinion is shared by 60% of participants.
The data shows an emerging awareness of VR in the UK, with 59% of men boasting a strong understanding of VR, compared with 46% of women. Men also lead the way in terms of affinity to the technology, with 55% expressing a strong interest in experiencing VR versus 40% of women.
When asked about the type of VR experiences people want to experience, the most popular was travel (56%), closely followed by music (52%), such as being in the crowd at a concert.
In terms of who consumers would like to see content from, the most popular two sources are from broadcasters like the BBC or Sky (41%), or on-demand services like Netflix (29%). However, a third are still unsure saying they do not know. Overall there is a strong demand from consumers who feel interested and knowledgeable. They are open to many different types of experiences, providing opportunities for brands to create and capitalise on first mover advantages.
Some brands are already tapping into public awareness as content gathers pace in adland, with celebrities being incorporated into VR experiences. Kate Moss acted as a celestial guide for Charlotte Tilbury which featured perfume bottles hurtling through space as flying saucers. Jaguar have reported their Andy Murray campaign is helping them sell an ‘incredible amount of cars,’ as marketers try and stay ahead of the curve.
Aside from advertising, immersive experiences can be educational and used to increase feelings and empathy for others. Clouds Over Sidra was a powerful UN film that put viewers in the shoes of a 12-year old girl living in a refugee camp as a result of the Syrian conflict. The Guardian have been leading the way towards a shift in visual journalism, with their landmark 6x9: virtual reality experience of solitary confinement. Ultimately, it’s the quality of the content itself that is important, and whether or not the message you’re trying to portray resonates with your target audience.
Applying VR in research
At Ipsos we pride ourselves on innovation and have collaborated with clients on projects incorporating virtual reality, artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality. Our Brand and Communications team worked with Orange at the Euros, enabling them to engage with fans as if they were in their own homes, through the use of fully immersive 360 and GoPro video footage.
Our new product development team are currently working on VR product testing with a number of technology clients, and our customer experience practice produced an augmented reality application for Virgin Trains. Meanwhile our Public Affairs division have also been exploring the field of AI, developing machine learning tools with Demos and the University of Sussex for the Wisdom of theCrowd project.
The VR platform is constantly evolving and we predict the future of research in this field will quickly be applied to:
- VR focus groups and interviews - allowing diverse groups of participants to come together in a malleable environment
- In-store and in-situ experiences - being able to control and change environments
- New product development - allowing pack ideas to be better explored without the development of full prototypes
- VR + neuro combinations - to simultaneously engage and measure the brain’s response to stimuli such as advertising in more realistic context
These are our predictions and we know, as technology becomes more affordable and accessible, they will change. We don’t believe that traditional research methodologies will be replaced in the immediate future. However, we do believe that we should embrace the technology and use it to our advantage, but never forget what brands want to achieve and be fooled by the #shinyobjectsyndrome.
Audiences or Programmes?
In a recent White Paper, programmatic demand-side platform provider, TubeMogul, referred to ‘the unstoppable shift to audience-based buying’ in the US television market, arguing that inefficiencies in the way TV advertising has traditionally been bought and sold, as well as advances in the way people receive their TV content, will lead inevitably to a time when more and more of it will be traded programmatically.