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Advertisers, at their core, are storytellers. And VR is the most powerful storytelling medium ever created. Users can be transported into an entire world imagined by the brand and, based on their actions, the story changes and evolves, creating an even deeper connection.

If only we already lived in a world where everyone owned a VR headset and consumed content in it a few hours a day… But we don’t. So today, knowing the reach is still limited, the question centers around that trade-off between quality and quantity. In other words, what’s the ROI on VR advertising?

To answer that question, we set out to quantify the depth of the user’s reaction in VR through the first-ever, fully interactive ad for Lionsgate’s horror movie, Jigsaw.

The ad was scary, to say the least. It combined the fully interactive nature of a bespoke VR app, with the distribution of an ad – running in two Unity apps: the Samsung Internet for VR app and Spiraloid’s Nanite Fulcrum, which provided built in reach on Gear and Rift. We were able to compare the user’s response to this, fully immersive, ad format with the Jigsaw trailer as seen on a mobile phone.

In order to truly measure emotional reactions, we partnered with Isobar’s Marketing Intelligence Practice. Using their Mindsight Technology for understanding unconscious emotions, Isobar performed biometric measurement and an emotional response survey across people who experienced the movie trailer in VR and in mobile video.

The results were astounding. People who went through the VR experienced substantially greater emotional arousal/engagement as indicated by biometric evaluation – elevated heart rate (+24%), heightened galvanic skin response, or sweating, (+44% peaks/minute), and increased muscle activation (more than 3X) associated with smiling.

Check out these graphs below – one from someone going through the VR experience and then that same user watching the mobile trailer.

 

When looking at reach and engagement as compared to traditional advertising, the results are also very impressive. We were able to achieve the following in just 2 weeks:

  • 175K Total User Reach
  • % Users opting into experience: 13.5%
  • 1.6X Average times played – again ALL OPT-IN
  • Click-through-rate on promotional placement: 3.7% (12X that of rich media benchmarks)
  • 70% completion rate on 30 second trailer in VR (6X higher than skippable video benchmarks)

In short, VR works exponentially better than other types of ads. And to help alleviate the guesswork on ROI, Unity bundles all VR ads with mobile, AR, 360, and video ads – creating a holistic approach that achieves both reach and engagement KPIs.

Yes, Jigsaw lent itself particularly well to such a strong reaction of fear, but VR is capable of making people feel everything from hunger to excitement to laugh-out-loud joy. While we have to always be responsible in creating these kinds of experiences and stay away from anything bordering on misrepresentation, this is also our chance to build lifelong relationships with our consumers.

I think of VR ads kind of like going skydiving on a first date. There’s no guarantee of happily ever after, but at least you won’t be forgotten. And usually the intensity of the experience opens the other person up to learning more and digging deeper, instead of defaulting to our now shorter-than-a-goldfish, 8-second attention span. Even the cost can totally be worth 5 or 6 dead-end happy hour dates!

What will the next heart-pumping, palm-sweating, grin-inducing ad experience be?