Virtual is real
Moe Jawhar

Moe Jawhar

Creative Director, Serviceplan Middle East


Mohamad Jawhar, Executive Creative Director of Serviceplan Group Middle East, shares his views on the application of Virtual Reality and how the technology can be positively harnessed by creative marketers for highly effective campaigns.

Virtual Reality is here to stay and is very quickly moving beyond a “cool technology” that an entire campaign rests on, to become a valuable component in integrated communications. The question is, how can we harness the full commercial potential of VR, so it’s not simply a gimmick, but an effective tool for engagement with consumers, resulting in stellar sales success?

As technology advances, the way it is applied is crucial in ensuring its relevance and continuity. There are lots of examples of tech that simply died, after being very well received following the initial hype – think Microsoft Kinect, Google Tango, even 3DTV!

While Virtual Reality is certainly not dying away, how we use it to effect and drive content will be the key to ensuring its evolution. Chris Milk, American director said, “talking about VR is like dancing about architecture”, this is great way of expressing how complicated the subject is, but in a simpler form, VR, like any channel, is a window to another world and what you show and how you show it is what makes the difference.

The technology was patented in 1962 and as it advanced, so did the way in which it was used. There are various examples of how large brands have invested billions in VR content and technology before coming to disappointing conclusions, and being embarrassed by the results, hence they started blaming VR for “not working”. However, we must not confuse “not working” with “not understanding.” For many, creating a VR experience was simply confined to shooting some 360 degree content, but this approach showed a real naivety and lack of appreciation of the increasingly sophisticated tech savvy audience.

For today’s marketers, enter the VR territory unprepared and you’ll find out very quickly that the rules of 2D digital content production do not apply. Put simply, whatever the device – mobile, tablet, laptop or VR head-set – it’s the quality of content that matters the most when it comes to audience engagement that’s going to effectively translate into brand adoption or subsequent purchase.

Some straightforward questions need to be answered before embarking on the VR journey, the most obvious one being, “why am I using VR – general awareness, product placement, invitation?” Also, “how is the audience’s experience going to unfold – through being entertained via gaming or simple engagement?”

Great examples of how VR has captured the imaginations of audiences and brilliantly conveyed the essence of a brand and it products includes, Perillo Tours who launched Perillo Travel VR. This VR experience offers users the chance to go anywhere around the world and enjoy local adventure without the need to leave their house.

Another great example of how engaging content can go a long way is BMW’s “Eyes on Gigi”, The aim was to announce the launch of the BMW M2 a car that is all about performance, using the most immersive tool available VR.

In 2016 Serviceplan and KBS along with the brilliant Director Marc Forster (Quantum of Solace, Monster’s Ball, World War Z) and cinematographer Mauro Fiore (Avatar, The Equalizer) shot the ad, a single uncut tracking shot creating one of the most successful VR gamification contents ever.

The year 2018 will prove a big year for VR through its adoption by the NBC FIFA Worldcup. The aim is of course to bring fans closer to the action; this will not only put VR back on the map, it will also make it available to a larger audience.

The use of VR by a behemoth like FIFA will, no doubt, assist in positioning it as a key digital marketing tool and will hopefully encourage more creatives to use it in the delivery of appropriate, bespoke content.

Let’s not point fingers at the technology anymore; instead let’s open our arms and welcome virtual reality as the digital content tool it’s designed to be. And let’s embrace the content challenge for all that it’s worth and stop sidelining VR as a non-starter before it’s even been given a chance to shine.