The film and television industry has never been backwards in adopting new ideas, especially since Tim Berners-Lee launched a funny new gimmick called ‘The World Wide Web’. Yeah, whatever happened to that?
Streaming, for example, is key for releasing new content. When was the last time you rented a video or DVD from a store? A few years ago, I’ll bet. Or how about the last time you watched a film on a commercial channel, adverts included, without glancing at a phone or a tablet?
Second screening (catchy, eh?) has evolved to become a staple part of an evening on the sofa, in front of the TV.
But will Virtual Reality become part of the marketing mix that the film and television industry throws at us on a regular basis? How does the world within a headset sell viewers the latest mega-box-set-don’t-miss-series?
In plenty of ways, in fact. So much so, that VR was labelled the ‘billion dollar niche’ by consultancy giant Deloitte in 2016, as the gaming industry enveloped the potential of VR. The two are pretty much made for each other.
That cannot go unnoticed by the major film and television studios. The key, it would seem, is combining storytelling and interactivity. Get that right and VR suddenly becomes the latest must-have for marketing a TV show or movie.
Allow me to explain – VR is an interactive medium. It allows the user to have a fully immersive experience, exploring whatever landscape they’re fed. That’s why it fits so well with gaming.
Film and television, of course, is all about storytelling. It always has been and if we’re frank, it always will be. A good story sells. Period.
In many ways, they’re both totally separate mediums – but what if they worked together? Well, it’s already happening.
Wild: The Experience actually debuted at the CES exhibition in March 2014. It took the user into the movie Wild with a three-minute live-action VR experience that featured a number of the main characters.
Users find themselves in the moment when Reese Witherspoon’s character is visited by the ghost of her mother. They could explore the scene and at times, lose sight of the ghostly visitor.
The film itself isn’t the traditional bombastic, crash n’ bash, feature normally associated with VR and perhaps therein lies the key. It told a story, and an emotional one at that. The story was, and still is, king.
It showed that VR has a role to play in taking people into a movie and leaving them to fend for themselves. Essentially, VR is bridging the gap between interactivity and storytelling.
Of course, you can go further.
Westworld is the latest offering from HBO, as it looks to mop up the splatter from Game of Thrones. Based on a theme park filled with thinking, human-like machines gone haywire, Westworld is tailor made for VR.
Alongside traditional on-air, online and trailer advertising, producers tapped into the appeal of the series to techn-savvy viewers. It is about human-like machines after all.
Demos were held at Comic Cons across the US, where users were offered an experience that took them beyond VR. A ‘pop up’ shop would be launched, themed around the TV series. This offers viewers a taste of the show before inviting them to put a headset on.
Once inside the VR sequence, proceedings switch between the actual ‘machine mode’, to a behind-the-scenes situation, where the machines repair and the characters really develop.
Again, it goes further than that. The Westworld VR sequence, away from the activations, was played out via the HTC Vive. The headsets aren’t exactly cheap, but that’s not the point. Shows like Westworld don’t just survive on traditional marketing alone.
The use of VR gave the campaign a mark of exclusivity that tied in with the theme of the series. Trips to an island full of human-like machines don’t come cheap. Real life or not, it drove home that exclusivity.
Undeniably, Hollywood – and the rest of the entertainment industry – is waking up to the potential of VR as a marketing tool.
Film and television studios have never been backwards in coming forward. They see VR as the latest must-have tool for marketing TV and films.
And so do we.