5 Winning Moments With Virtual Reality

When Google released its Cardboard, a low-cost viewer where one could insert a smartphone, in 2015, it put an emerging technology like virtual reality (VR) into the hands of everyone. The excitement was palpable. A year later, Google announced that over 5 million Cardboard viewers had shipped, over 1,000 compatible applications had been published, and […]


  • When Google released its Cardboard, a low-cost viewer where one could insert a smartphone, in 2015, it put an emerging technology like virtual reality (VR) into the hands of everyone. The excitement was palpable. A year later, Google announced that over 5 million Cardboard viewers had shipped, over 1,000 compatible applications had been published, and over 25 million application installs been made. 

    In 2016, jumping on the bandwagon, Coca Cola, known for being a leader in content creation, released a video tutorial about how to repurpose old cola bottles to make a DIY headset. McDonald’s took the concept a step further and launched Happy Meals in boxes that could transform into VR headsets. It was an easy win for the consumer, created delight for the brand and enhanced engagement with otherwise ignored packaging material. As a marketing experiment, the fast-food brand launched a limited run of 3,500 headsets available at 14 McDonald’s restaurants across northern Sweden. 

    Also Read: A Touch of Reality: AR, VR, and MR are Transforming Marketing 

    Since then, new hardware offerings and advancements in video applications have grown substantially. VR offers immersion and realism, making it a hotbed for marketers to use the technology to lift engagement with their products. According to a report by Forbes, global spending on XR technology is forecast to increase by 78.5 per cent in 2021. Earlier in May, Facebook organised the Luxury Innovation Summit, which explored the potential of virtual and augmented reality for the luxury market. It brought together 50 luxury C-level executives in a VR reproduction of Hacker Square, Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California. Attendees used Facebook’s headset, the Oculus Quest 2.

    Let’s take a look at how VR is creating memorable moments in marketing.  

    Autumn/Winter 2021 Balenciaga Show 

    In 2020, fashion films were an outdated concept, but in-person fashion shows were out of the question. Fashion designer and creative director of Balenciaga Demna Gvasalia teamed up with Unreal Engine to unveil Afterworld: The Age of Tomorrow, a video game built to showcase Balenciaga’s winter collection. It involved creating 3D scans of models to build their virtual avatars. 

    Also Read: Facebook Tests Ads In Virtual Reality Headsets

    For the show, fashion insiders received Oculus headsets along with their invite to the Autumn/Winter 2021 Balenciaga show. The experience allowed guests to not just witness the models on the runway but also turn to people around them. The show broke barriers between the digital and physical world, earning quite a few headlines in the press. But the game that’s available online made the brand accessible to all. Users who download and log in are taken into a magical forest where they play the role of the hero who chooses from a vast wardrobe. They also meet models dressed in impeccably fashionable armour playing different roles as the story moves forward through five levels.  

    Mountain Dew and the DEWcision Campaign

    The soda brand has actually been an early mover when it comes to VR. They launched their first campaign back in 2014 when viewers could skate with professional skateboarders Paul Rodriguez and Sean Malto through some of the most iconic spots in Las Vegas. 

    The DEWcision campaign in 2016 encouraged fans to vote for one of the two new flavours it was planning to launch; Baja Blast and Pitch Black.

    Users participated in the Nascar VR experience where they took part in a race co-piloted by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne or Chase Elliott. There were two paths to take, namely Baja Blast (California beach and desert) and Pitch Black (neo-Tokyo cityscape). Whatever path the viewer took within the experience was counted as a vote towards Mountain Dew’s final decision.

    1. Rome Reborn Travels Through Time 

    This one actually started out as an academic project, but travel and tourism brands can stand to learn a thing or two. Rome Reborn was a project by digital archeologist Bernard Frischer of Indiana University. He worked with a team of 50 scientists and computer experts for 20 years on this project to recreate an area of 5.5 square miles of Ancient Rome with 7,000 monuments and buildings. The team chose to set their virtual world in 320 A.D. because they had the most information on that period, which allowed them to go into greater detail.

    The Flight Over Ancient Rome experience, currently available via VR headsets and computers, takes participants on a roughly two-hour highlight tour that includes stops at more than 35 points of interest, including the imperial fora and palace, the Circus Maximus, and the tombs of emperors Augustus and Hadrian. Since the success of the project, the team has rebranded itself as Flyover Zone, a company that specialises in virtual tourism. 

    Tourism and travel companies that have been badly affected by the pandemic can learn from this experience. In 2015, Thomas Cook launched their Try Before You Fly VR experience where potential holidaymakers who visited stores in the UK, Germany and Belgium could try a VR experience of their holiday destination before booking it. The travel company noted a 190 per cent uplift in New York excursion bookings after people tried the 5-minute version of the holiday in VR.  

    1. The New York Times Experiments with Storytelling

    Media giant, the New York Times needs special mention for taking a print publication for a futuristic spin using VR. In 2015, the morning newspaper was delivered along with a set of Google Cardboard glasses to all of an exclusive list of loyal customers so they could watch a VR film. 

    The films appealed to intellectuals and philanthropists, likely traits for the NYT audience: Seeking Pluto’s Frigid Heart offered an opportunity to investigate the planet from space, and a documentary entitled The Displaced offered an intimate glimpse at how children have been displaced by war.

    The glasses acted as an incentive or reward for brand loyalty. The emotional subjects of the films moved the viewers, and the technology elevated the level of engagement with the newspaper. 

    1. Audi’s Enter Sandbox

    AUDI – Enter The Sandbox VR Experience from 1st AD – Tobias “Tysken” Reiner on Vimeo.

    In 2018, Audi launched a driving simulator timed to coincide with the launch of the Audi Q5. At their flagship dealership in Oslo, they created an in-store installation that let visitors drive in a re-created sandpit. The concept was to recreate a happy memory from childhood. Creative agency POL and production company MediaMonks used short bursts of infrared light with over 200,000 measure points captured by the infrared camera to create the sandbox. This data was then used to create a 3D model that informed the virtual environment in real-time. Once in the car, the driver experienced all the tangibility of a real-life drive, from feedback in the steering wheel to the actual engine sounds of an Audi Q5. 

    The campaign was a huge success, generating plenty of earned media and social buzz. It went on to win a cyber lion award at the Cannes Lions festival.


    More Like This