In the early 90s, virtual reality (VR) was set to completely revolutionise the tech and gadget world forever – and then it didn’t. Alongside 3D cinema and polarised glasses, it was merely a case of ‘not just yet’ and the fad soon died out.
People weren’t ready for it, and neither was the technology.
Fast forward to 2016 and VR is cool again. We’re now living in a world where the full capabilities of virtual reality – with its ability to transport users to immersive alternative realities – is being used in new and exciting ways as a commercial tool to sell and promote products.
Now technology has updated and the potential is seemingly limitless, virtual reality looks like it’s here to stay this time.
2016 will celebrate the official launches of some of the most hotly-anticipated VR headsets such as Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus, which will firmly put tech into the hands of consumers.
So much so that Business Insider estimates the VR hardware market will be worth around £1.9 billion by 2020.
With this in mind, we’ve decided to take a look at five PR campaigns that have successfully used virtual reality to market and sell products, whilst creating an experience like no other.
The Crashed Car Showroom
To promote car safety, NRMA Insurance used the Oculus Rift headset to simulate what it is like to be in a car crash.
People were sat in a real car linked up to a hydraulic system that moved the car in sync with virtual movements.
Once seated, the driver was completely shrouded in a 3D world and could move their head around to examine the simulated location of being in a driving car.
The aim was to recreate the experience of crashing so they could properly understand the severity and importance of road safety.
New York Times & Google Cardboard
When two huge brands collide, they’re able to form the ultimate promotional tool. In November, the New York Times partnered up with Google to create a fantastic VR advertising project.
Google created its very own handheld virtual-reality gadgets and delivered them to more than a million subscribers of the New York Times print newspaper.
Using their smartphone, subscribers were encouraged to download a special NYT VR app that would aim to completely change the way they consume daily news.
The partnership involved creating a series of short films based around hard-hitting news subjects, including a story of a child caught in the Syrian refugee crisis.
The campaign showed how VR could have an impact on the future of journalism and with news outlets constantly looking for ways to bring back straying audiences, VR may be the way forward. Dean Baquet, the executive editor of the New York Times, said:
“Our magazine team has created the first critical, serious piece of journalism using virtual reality, to shed light on one of the most dire humanitarian crises of our lifetime.”
Right now, it seems that wherever you go there is some form of Star Wars themed marketing around and it will come as no surprise that virtual reality has got itself involved as well.
In the lead up to the release of The Force Awakens in December, Lucasfilm teamed up with Google and Verizon to allow fans to visit the planet of Jakku – the home of Rey, the main character in the film played by Daisy Ridley.
Using their smartphone and Google’s VR eyewear, people could jump directly into the action and explore the planet, whilst there was a series of in-app messages that were constantly updated the closer the movie release date got.
Coca-Cola and the World Cup
During the 2014 Fifa World Cup in Brazil, Coca-Cola created an unique football experience like no other.
Visitors were taken to a mock locker room in the Maracana Stadium in Rio De-Janeiro and were asked to put on Coca-Cola branded VR headgear which allowed them to run straight on to the football pitch to play for the home nation.
The campaign gave people the chance to play in the World Cup and experience something that millions of people across the world dream of – all thanks to Coca-Cola.
The Goosebumps VR Adventure
To celebrate the release of the Goosebumps movie in 2015, Sony Pictures created a VR adventure that transported cinema goers straight into a world that presented plenty of thrills and frights, including many of the infamous monsters from R.L Stine’s much-loved children’s novels.
Using D-Box motion chairs in select theatres and Samsung’s Gear VR headset, the experience threw fans directly into all of the film’s action in what could best be described as a theme park-style adventure ride.
The result was a thrilling and fun experience that helped create a buzz around the film’s upcoming release and showed just how much of an immersive and creative platform virtual reality can be.
If VR technology really is going to take over the world like we’re lead to believe, maybe these five ideas will serve as inspiration for when we’re able to create our very own marketing campaigns with virtual reality. The great thing is, it’ll be here sooner than we think.
Ben Martin is creative director at the PR and creative agency Peppermint Soda.