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Leo Burnett Company, Limited
175 Bloor Street East, North Tower
Toronto, Ontario M4W 3R9
+416 925 5997

Margaret Arnold

SVP, Director, Human Resources

EVP David Kennedy


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Understanding the Virtual Hype Machine

VR might not be for every brand, but Leo Burnett London’s Chris Walts offers primer on how to get started

The hype and expectations for Virtual Reality in 2016 could not be higher, but there are very good reasons why agencies, brands and consumers are salivating over the potential of this exciting new medium.

Virtual Reality, at its best, is a genuinely transformative experience. You can literally walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, or experience the universe from an entirely new perspective. Games are getting a lot of the early hype, partially because the way games are designed most easily lend themselves to the production process. But make no mistake, news, psychology, urban planning, medicine, travel and particular branding and entertainment will be just as affected, if not more so.

The low-hanging fruit in the medium is 360-degree videos, and they are going to be everywhere in 2016. Facebook and YouTube already allow users to view 360-degree videos by utilizing the gyroscope on their mobile devices, and live streaming appears just around the corner. As more “prosumer” 360-degree cameras hit the market, the cost of making the videos will fall drastically and the amount of 360-degree video content will explode.

While it may be tempting to try and shoehorn VR into every project moving forward, we still caution our clients against creating projects that aren’t linked to their strategic brand objectives. VR works extremely well under a specific set of circumstances, and when these naturally align with the brand objectives can create truly transformational work.

When the brand objectives align, we recommend using VR to:

• Transport someone to a place they’ve never been, such as a new country or inside a product such as car engine
• Place someone in another person’s shoes, such as doctor performing a surgery or a sprinter winning the Olympics
• Give someone a once-in-a-lifetime experience, like putting them on stage with Paul McCartney
• Allow people to interact with their world in a new way, like allowing them to fly around their city
• Test new thinking and new ideas, such as trying out driverless cars or exploring the effects of urban redevelopments
• Break down the barriers of space and time, like watching the universe being born in slow motion before your eyes

While some of the above executions are more far-fetched than others, it helps demonstrate the true breadth and depth of potential in this new medium, and brands are perfectly positioned to drive experimentation inside this world of possibilities. 360-degree videos are now available, on mobile or desktop, via Facebook and YouTube, so brands can start exploring how to tell an immersive story.

This is the biggest, and most exciting, challenge moving forward — trying to figure out how to tell these stories in a non-linear manner to create a truly immersive experience. The rewards for getting the experiences right, however, are incredible. Because of the immersive nature and emotional connection that occurs in VR, brands that produce inspiring experiences can move from simply creating ads to creating lasting memories.

Chris Walts is futures director at Leo Burnett London.