On Thursday April 21, 2016, VELVET organized the event Virtual Reality for Brands, featuring Crow’s Nest, a leading virtual reality content producer. The event was attended by members of the French Chamber of Culture and Industry, China (CCIFC).
Speakers for the event included VELVET CEO and Founder Patrice Nordey, Crow’s Nest Founder Eloi Gerard, Crow’s Nest Co-Founder Robert Ellis, Youku Business Development Director Jim Lerch, and Thomas Cook Business Development Associate Director, Solene Anglaret.
According to Gerard, humans have been projecting the self into reality since they started creating art. Virtual reality as we know it is the product of the convergence of smart phones and the internet. 2016 also marks the first year that affordable devices will be available to the masses—some could say it is Year One for Virtual reality.
Gerard went on to explain the difference between virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality. The virtual reality experience is one of being submersed in an entirely different environment while augment reality involves placing virtual elements directly into real space. Mixed reality is where the virtual continuum extends from reality to augmented reality and augmented virtuality.
In terms of how brands use virtual reality, the popular options include events, cardboard (an inexpensive version of a headset made of cardboard), and in-store devices. Popular industries that use VR include travel, real estate, auto, and retail.
Automotive – PSA
The French car manufacturer commissioned Crow’s Nest to create a corporate video that contained scenes from the board room, test lab, and inside a car. The video was published to WeChat.
Retail – Metro
For its 20-year anniversary, the German supermarket commissioned Crow’s Nest to create a video that featured a host walking through a market to showcase the layout, products, and overall consumer experience.
Travel – Thomas Cook
The pioneering British travel agency decided to take advantage of the natural synergy between virtual reality and showcasing travel offerings. For the China market, it hired Crow’s Nest to produce a video that told the story of a Chinese couple’s holiday in Thailand.
As for the distribution model, it is easier in Europe because there are over a thousand retail locations and it is easy to distribute cardboards in store. In New York, sales increased by 300% after the introduction of virtual reality content. However, it’s hard to say for China, since the company started with virtual reality here, according to Business Development Associate Director, Solene Anglaret. In China, the company often distributes cardboards at Chinese partner company Fosun corporate events. The next step would be distribution at airports, sent to homes, and so forth.
Regarding whether virtual reality will replace real holidays, Anglaret seemed doubtful, saying that while she could imagine someone who wanted a quick pick-me-up by watching a travel VR video, for the most part, VR will aid in the decision making process.
What’s next in VR?
Youku Business Development Director Jim Lerch spoke about the potential for VRC (the virtual reality commercial), as well as branded entertainment and VR games. Youku (the “Youtube of China”) recently launched the 360 VR channel. Within Youku, there is a dedicatd APP. It is currently building out its VR product offering. Youku’s approach is content-driven, unlike competitor Tencent, which is more hardware driven.
VR content marketing is in its early stages. So what is the future of branded entertainment? One idea is doing original content teasers in VR, such as an extended movie trailer. Rather than a passive experience, it has the potential to be like a choose your own adventure.
VR e-commerce is another interesting prospect. Consumers will be able to experience a lifestyle and shop direct.
Of the four major players in the VR industry in China, Alibaba is the only one that is focused on content. The other three are closed ecosystems, similar to Facebook: Tencent (building out ecosystem with a headset and leveraging its user base), Baidu and LeEco.
But the industry is moving quick—Huawei also announced a headset.
Examples of VR for social media include meeting friends on the moon or having a meeting with your boss and coworkers who are all avatars.
Basically, VR is like the new internet and everyone wants to be Google and the challenge moving forward is about moving beyond the gimmick to create something sustainable, with longevity, Gerard concluded.
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