Last October, Fast Company Senior Editor Jason Feifer argued that brands are overdoing it with Oculus Rift and providing uninspired experiences. Brands are killing Oculus Rift with advertising before regular consumers have even had a chance to play with the thing.
While I’m not as completely cynical, for the most part I do agree with Feifer. Adweek’s recent article, How Oculus Rift Is About to Reshape Marketing Creativity makes me nervous. It makes me think that every single agency is pitching an Oculus Rift project right now for the sake of jumping on Oculus Rift and throwing “innovative” and “immersive” into their decks. Are any brands realizing that their budget spends are more likely to show off Oculus Rift capabilities than their products or services?
Look, I see the potential with virtual reality as much as anybody else. There are people working on medical applications, PTSD therapy, sports training, and immersive movies. The list goes on, and it’s exciting.
However, as advertisers, we shouldn’t just jump on the Oculus Rift bandwagon all willy-nilly. There are pitfalls. Let’s be a bit more thoughtful, especially as the initial “first-one-here!” buzz has already passed. Do you really need Oculus Rift for your project? I created a decision tree here to help you figure that out:
For the most part, the point of virtual reality is to experience something that isn’t real, or is very difficult to make real. Virtual reality allows users to do something they are incapable of doing, not allowed to do, or scared to do. Fictional worlds and fantasies are good examples.
You want to show a kid what it’s like to fly a dragon in How to Train Your Dragon? Awesome.
You want to show a kid what it’s like to throw a football? Take off that damn headset and just hand him a ball.
I’ve seen too many brands create virtual experiences that are overwrought, simply for the sake of being able to call it “digital.” These are experiences where brands could have just created real life physical experiences, and they would have been more impactful. (Hey generic-car-seller, you know what’s cooler than having your customers sit in a fake car for a fake ridealong? Having your customers sit in a real car and blowing their minds off with real G’s and a real gnarly engine rumble.)