The Future of VR Advertising: Here’s What To Expect

1950s coke ad future of VR advertising
Written by Mike Boland

As you can see from any early 1950s TV ad, it takes awhile for advertisers to adopt to a new medium. So what will VR ads look like? BY MIKE BOLAND

aNewDomainMike Boland — Early television ads often showed a solitary individual reading a script for Coke, Ovaltine or Lucky Strike.

The reason: that’s the way they did in radio. It took time for TV ads to grow into their own skin.

Such habit creep is common in emerging media. Which makes you wonder: How will advertising in virtual reality play out?

Beyond VR games

A major headline is its broad applicability. VR all about gaming now, but it will grow into retail, enterprise, education and, for better or worse, ads.

That’s because a lot of VR content will be media — and a decent portion of that will of course be ad supported.

Also like other media, success inevitably will come from “native” thinking. That thinking is just one of the drivers that will make VR advertising a $120B enterprise by 2020.

Native thinking

What’s native thinking? It’s designing formats that take to heart the exact parameters of the device or form factor, as opposed to simply porting pre-existing media to a new device or screen size.

“The impulse in moving from video will be to apply it to VR,”  Framestore VR’s Tyler Hopf said recently in a webinar. “But applying pre-roll to VR won’t work. People won’t want to be placed inside [an ad]. So we have to figure out ways to create valuable ad experiences.”

The definition of what’s native and valuable in VR will be discovered through experimentation. Google recently examined this concept through usage data, showing that developers should optimize for new consumption patterns like longer session lengths.

“In VR, we have positional head tracking data,” said EEVO CEO Alejandro Dinsmore on the same webinar. “We can Overlay 3d objects on top of video such as dynamic product placement. We can place dynamic 3d objects in blank spaces and measure the feedback.”

This brings up another “native” aspect of VR beyond creation of ad experiences: analytics.


There too, it will take native thinking and not imposing old metrics on new formats and consumption patterns. Thrillbox and ADVR have echoed this thinking, among others.

“VR has 100 percent viewability,” says Airpush’s Cameron Peebles. “In other media like online and broadcast, you can’t measure people truly viewing. [VR] is the first medium where you can validate that. And heat mapping takes that further.”

Winning ad formulas won’t involve banners and pre-roll videos.

It will instead be some version of what we now know as content marketing, involving immersive experiences that are brought to you by a given brand.

But the most native thinking will come from VR’s immersive ability to emulate the use or essence of consumer products. This gets beyond the toolbox of ad copy or creative and instead graduates to heavier artillery to demonstrate products.

“Think of an auto dealer,” said Tyler. “There are multiple KPIs to get a user to an experience and visit [the dealership] in the real world. VR can skip those steps and get right to the experience.”

For aNewDomain, I’m Mike Boland.

Here’s Mike Boland talking VR advertising on behalf of ARtillry Intelligence …

An early version of this article ran on Mike Boland’s VR news site, ARtillry. Check it out here.
Cover image: YouTube, All Rights Reserved.