Google is already an advertising giant — the company will receive the majority of all search ad revenue this year. Plus, Google and Facebook combined receive 20 percent of total ad revenue, which equaled $79.4 billion in 2016, according to . Now, both tech companies are expanding into a new area: virtual reality.
The Trend Toward Virtual Reality
Although it may seem as if virtual reality only came into existence in recent years, VR technology has actually been around since the late 1980s, reaching the general public through gaming. In 1994, Virtual Reality Modeling Language, better known ad VRML, was introduced.
Despite the capabilities of virtual reality being around so long, VR has struggled to move out of the gaming sphere. Only now are developers finally beginning to see the possibilities of using VR to immerse users in stories, movies, art, and more. This is the opportunity for creatives to expand into new areas and try out ideas that were impossible before.
VR also has practical uses. It can be useful in the workplace for training professionals like doctors, machine operators, military personnel, and even real estate agents. VR gives people the chance to move through a virtual world in new ways before making concrete decisions.
Google VR Ads
As with most big trends, VR comes with the opportunity to advertise. Already, the biggest tech company is using VR as a chance to monetize.
As it turns out, Google has been testing VR ads for a while, but the company only recently explained what it is doing on its developer blog. Right now, Google is testing how it will be possible to create ads for Google Cardboard, Google Daydream View, and Samsung Gear. The aim is to bring users a positive experience rather than to be intrusive with ads.
The ads work by appearing as small cube surrounded by logos, which moves to catch the attention of users. To activate the ad, users will stare at the cube or click on it. This leads to a small screen appearing with the video ad. Users can easily close the ad, simply by looking at the “Close Ad” key at the bottom of the ad player.
Google already dominates the VR headset market — a market that was valued at $10 billion last year. The majority of units sold, at 69 percent, are the budget Google Cardboard, according to . By including ads in its VR mix, Google will only continue to increase its market share. In particular, ads for paid Daydream apps (available for download in the Play Store) will allow Google to increase its profits.
It is still unclear as to whether VR ads will appear just on the Google headsets or if Google will create versions for its competitor’s headsets. Don’t expect to see any ads anytime soon, though. They are still very much in the development stage.
Facebook in VR
Although there is no news yet as to whether Facebook is also testing ads, the company is beginning to become invested in VR. Two years ago, it purchased Oculus, which accounted for 1 percent of VR headset sales last year. Facebook also has its own virtual reality social network, called Spaces. Since Facebook gains its revenue from ads, it would be logical to expect the company to expand into VR ads in the near future.
What All This Means for Marketers
VR ads bring new challenges to marketers, who now need to learn how to create ads that users will respond to on yet another medium. As VR grows, it will have a greater impact on aspects of digital marketing like search and user engagement. Marketers will need to find new ways to enable their message to reach users on wearables, using voice commands, and in general to create a seamless experience on VR devices.
When you think of it this way, we are already moving in the right direction, VR or no VR. There is already an emphasis on the importance of personalized experiences, on creating ads that work on multiple devices, and that reach people throughout their daily lives, rather than just during particular activities. VR takes this trend one step further, bringing interactivity to ads.
VR in the Future
It may feel like we have been waiting a long time for virtual reality, considering for how long the technology has existed. Even now, only a few companies so far are taking advantage of VR, mainly just the digital leaders: Google and Facebook along with Samsung and Sony, which hold a generous portion of the headset market.
As the trend continues, expect to see other big names join in soon, such as Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Verizon. To avoid getting left behind, be ready for new marketing opportunities for your own business in VR as they arise.