Video Essentials

VR Brand Advertising Works and Here’s the Proof: USA Today


USA Today has taken an early lead in branded virtual reality (VR) video creation, and it has a message for brands and agencies: VR works.

Done right, VR drives shares, brand lift, and engagement. It helps people see a brand as unique and desirable.

Kelly Andresen of the USA Today Network

Speaking at the Adobe Summit marketing conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, Kelly Andresen, a senior vice president with the USA Today Network, highlighted the company’s early VR efforts and results.

“It’s a great way for brands to engage and tell a great story to their audience,” Andresen said.

USA Today’s first branded VR effort was with Honda, giving viewers the experience of being in a race car circling a track at 200 miles per hour. That resulted in huge hits and massive sharing. USA Today followed that up with a branded VR video for a smoke detector company showing what it’s like to be in a burning building. (While the results were frightening and showed how quickly fire spreads, it was a “safe controlled burn,” Andresen said.)

USA Today ran the burning house ad in a video-enabled display ad on its homepage and still achieved huge numbers, showing that if the content is good, viewers don’t care where the VR ad lives.

From its successes and not-quite-successes, USA Today learned a few things about what makes a successful VR ad:

  • Keep it personal: VR ads work best when the experience is at arm’s length and at eye level.
  • Keep it short: Many viewers watch VR content as pan-around 360-degree videos, so VR viewing mirrors standard 2D video consumption. Keep videos to two minutes or less.
  • VR works: VR ads lead to substantial lift in all brand metrics.

To prove that last item, USA Today partnered with Nielsen to test the effectiveness of VR. The study found metrics rose in every category.

Highlights of the research are that telecom and entertainment brands do especially well in VR; VR produces much better brand metrics compared to standard 2D ads for the same product; and viewers rate VR advertisers as highly unique, meaning ones they see as standouts and recommend to friends. The study was conducted in January 2017. See the picture below for a few stats from the study.




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