Video Essentials

CES 2017: Brands Need to Approach VR for the Right Reasons

Virtual reality (VR) and 360-degree videos are catnip for brands that want to get into a hot area early, but that doesn’t mean every brand should leap in right away. For Ari Avishay, a marketing executive with Creative Artists Agency (CAA), a big part of his job these days is teaching clients what VR is and what it isn’t. In the past year, all of his clients have expressed interest in working with VR. Many had to be talked out of it. Avishay spoke on the topic at a CES 2017 panel on the future of brand partnerships.

Avishay starts by strategizing with clients on what they want to do in VR, making sure they’re approaching a project in the right way, with the right mentality, and with the right resources. This is a new form of storytelling, and the linear scriptwriting of traditional video doesn’t work here. But we’re still in the education phase, and both brands and video creators are learning what succeeds. CAA just wrapped its fist VR brand project—a first for almost everyone involved.

On the production side, succeeding with VR is less about the project structure and more about whom you’re working with. VR has to be entertaining, so people who understand how to tell stories and create great entertainment can succeed. Approach a VR project by asking what’s the most entertaining part, Avisay said; what’s most compelling and will draw the most eyeballs? That’s what will get the best execution. The production team itself could be internal or external.

“It’s about finding the right partners to execute the right vision, and continually sticking with that vision throughout,” Avishay said.

As the largest creator of consumer VR products, Samsung likes to think of itself as a trailblazer in the space, noted Zach Overton, vice president and general manager at Samsung. For his company, VR is all about immersiveness, about putting viewers in a space they’ve never experienced before.

“VR has been an amazing tool for us to showcase how our technology can bring people closer to the things they love,” Overton said. “We consider VR an empathy machine.”

Samsung is partnering with online video superstars like Casey Neistat to introduce VR to a wider audience. At a recent panel, Neistat said the best things to shoot in VR are things you couldn’t shoot otherwise, Overton recalled.

As an example of a successful VR partnership, Overton told how Samsung teamed up with the New York Times and outfitted all its journalists with 360-degree cameras. Using that equipment, the Times features a new 360-degree video on its site every day. That makes immersive video a daily ritual for many people, and provides credibility to the platform.

Overton acknowledged that Samsung can be a demanding VR partner to work with as the company says no to a lot of opportunities that sound interesting but aren’t a good use of the medium. Simply shooting a static experience in VR doesn’t show the technology or the partner in a good light.

That’s today’s lesson for brands as they begin thinking about virtual reality: Can this project be shot any other way? If so, shoot it that way and find something more involving and immersive for VR.


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