Advertising In The Age Of Virtual Reality – the future of online engagement

Virtual Reality is one of the most enticing challenges a software engineer would come across throughout his career. What can be more exciting than literally generating a world from scratch and populating it with features and characters that would dazzle the pickiest audience!?

At the border between Advertising and AR/VR Technologies

Virtual Reality is one of the most enticing challenges a software engineer would come across throughout his career. What can be more exciting than literally generating a world from scratch and populating it with features and characters that would dazzle the pickiest audience!?

In the context of an emerging Virtual Reality trend that spreads like a virus in every industry, ranging from entertainment to wellness and healthcare, pioneers in the software development field are always eager to introduce puzzling concepts on the market.

That was the case with Immersv, a Gemini Solutions client who aimed to develop the first-of-its-kind VR mobile advertising network.

How it works

Such a platform allows game developers to incorporate video trailers in VR apps, inviting the users engaged in virtual reality games to download relevant applications while in the game, without even taking their headset off. How? Simply by focusing on them for a few moments.

The catchy and creative ads are sold on a cost-per-view basis and, according to Immersv, they reach completion rates of 80 percent, which is about double of the classic mobile ads on smartphones or tablets.

Gemini’s involvement

Gemini Solutions had a history with Immersv’s CEO and Co-Founder Mihir Shah and CTO John Gentilin. Theo Nissim’s team worked with them in 2008 on another project, a video advertising platform called RockYou!. Based on their proven skills and compatibility with Immersv’s modus operandi, it was only natural to invite Gemini as a partner in this challenging adventure.

“While strong developers, Gemini’s engineers also meet one of our most important requirements – that they are self-starters,” said Gentlin. “We don’t have time to work with consultants who need a lot of instruction or hand-holding. Gemini’s developers don’t wait for the next phone call to begin work. The fact that they are also in a different time zone is a benefit to our engineering team. Working around the clock helps us meet demand 24/7,” he concluded.

How it is done

Within a couple of weeks, Gemini’s engineers and Immerv team were already engaged in building a major VR app. Their input was essential especially at two levels of Immersv technical development: a VR content app that they use as a delivery vehicle for their content and a means of testing their Ad units and backend data processing.

“Everything was done in Unity, while for tracking and extracting data for Analytics we used Cassandra, Kafka, Spark, Elasticsearch, and Kibana. To get personalized queries, we used Elasticsearch for the dashboard, while for non-Big Data we used Jinq, the equivalent of LINQ in .NET. We also employed the Java 8 functional programming (LAMDA),” recalls Alecs, the main developer in the Gemini team on the project.

To sum it up, the success of VR advertising depends to a great extent on software development. But the great innovation itself in this area is not enough to turn a mare product placement into eye candies for the audience. To back that up you really need engaging ads, efficient distribution across platforms, and a consistent network of in-market demos.

If you think about it the first thing the user interacts with is not the versatile software that animates the virtual environment, but the physical hardware that connects the player with the alternative reality. And while there is still a lack of mass adoption of the hyper-futuristic giant headsets, virtual reality is still far from becoming a universal advertising medium.

How should VR change Advertising?

A recent poll shows that over 70% of the people exposed to social media advertising, not to mention the traditional channels, find ads intrusive and irritating. Especially the young audience (who is in fact the target of VR games), objects to the ads waves that flood their feeds. This “classic” way of promotion can only jeopardize the brand’s efforts to connect with its prospects.

What could and should VR change? Turn passiveness of the regular advertising into vivid, exciting interaction. The user should be in control of the environment he/she passes through. The virtual adds should be as non-intrusive as possible, the gamer being free to enter or skip any doorway/portal inviting him to explore an equally interactive branded environment while playing his chosen game. In terms of timing, probably the best moment to pop up these alternative branded worlds would be between levels, or after passing checkpoints, not to disrupt the gameplay.

Advertising should be as cool and engaging as the VR game itself.

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