I’m writing this on an airplane, flying back to California from an invigorating week of NewFront presentations, and visiting 1:1 with media execs at their offices. The shear amount of video content being touted by the forty NewFront presenters is stunning, but what I found most intriguing; is the promise by these media companies, to produce and distribute virtual reality content- all sorts of it; news, documentaries, live events and scripted shows that invite viewers to step right into the story. There is a ton– make that many tons of investment dollars directed at VR technologies, and now the content that will make it, well….real!
Sitting in the office of a biz-dev executive at a major media company last week, I looked around and saw several VR headsets. He picked one up, easily shoved his smartphone in it, thrust it towards me and declared, “This wave is real. The next nine months will see tremendous advancements in VR programming and acceptance.” I think I believe him.
Walking to my gate at JFK this morning I stopped in front of this poster.
I stood there for awhile, pondering over the image and all that I had just heard as I beat around NYC. “This wave is real,” I kept thinking. I stopped and picked up the May issue of Wired and, of course, the cover article screamed out at me; “The Quest for a New Kind of Reality.” I devoured the piece by Kevin Kelly, the founding Executive Editor of Wired in 1992, and a guy that has been following VR technologies since 1989. If you aren’t sure about VR and the immersive future, I invite you to read Kevin’s article now before this rising wave crashes down upon you unexpectedly.
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As I sit her now at 30,000 feet, I wonder, what’s next in the way of “Something-Fronts?” A VirtualFront? What might that look like? Heck, you wouldn’t even need to leave your home or office, just don the headset and be virtually transported to immersive presentations. No trans-continental travel. No in and out of Ubers and cabs, no standing in lines 8 blocks long hoping to get a seat where you might actually be able to see. It wouldn’t discourage people from attending in person, but it would surely expand the audience beyond New York City.
For brands and their agencies, there is a lot to figure out here. How will brands integrate messaging within a virtual experience? How will the industry keep awful ad practices out of the VR realm? Can you imagine what annoying ad units could fly at you in the middle of an immersive session? Would make popups and interstitials seem like reasonable advertising. I think the message is clear, this wave is for real and we all better get ready for a truly gnarly ride!
Not convinced the VR wave is real? Check out these articles:
New York Times Doubles Down on Virtual Reality at NewFronts
After Experimenting With 360-Degree Storytelling, Publishers Are Going All-In on VR
National Geographic Readies First Instagram Video Series for Its 49 Million Followers
Refinery29's Second NewFront Heavy on VR and Data
Live concerts could be just the ticket for virtual reality
Unilever CMO Keith Weed: 'We are shooting VR content for a lot of our brands'
NextVR and TIME Inc. Partner to Bring 360 Content From Major Magazine Brands
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Of course, if you’d like to contribute to the story, I'd love to hear from you. Email me: Rick@BrandStorytelling.tv