If you build it, they will come. One of the great lines in movie history is a nice fit with our VR efforts over the past year. The team at R&R Partners has been busy developing virtual reality content for our Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) client at an exhaustive rate, while consumers ate up the experience.
And while industry professionals have recognized our latest efforts in marketing the destination, most recently, the research community has taken notice. Early in 2016, we were approached by YuMe, a global audience technology company that was interested in using our VR content for a study being commissioned with Nielsen. The study was a neuroscience-informed research report based around emotional engagement across mobile VR and 360 video as compared to TV. Nielsen’s neuroscience team studied 150 people as they consumed VR content from Las Vegas and Disney across these three platforms.
The results were great and provided much needed insight for our industry on a new platform. Not only will this study help R&R Partners keep delivering impactful content, it will give guidance to the entire advertising industry.
A few of the key findings include:
Likeability is higher for VR and 360 video.
Guided exploration is key for brands and consumers.
Emotional engagement in VR is up to 34 percent longer compared to 2-D.
As an openly gay millennial, I’ve often struggled with fully embracing LGBT advertising messages that reduce a beautifully diverse queer community to two-dimensional stereotypes of fashionable, hard-bodied, blonde models. It’s a confession I’ve never been proud enough to voice until now, at a time of unprecedented strides in LGBT equality, and an equally strong movement within media and marketing to build support, advocacy and community.
In the era of declining print advertising and increasing digital banner blindness, it seems the most impactful way to reach the LGBT community is through 1:1 on site community building.
The shift in successful LGBT marketing is no longer just speaking at the community—but to actually become a part of it.
As a born and raised Texan, growing up gay was hardly something to celebrate. Even with a vibrant nightlife and active community, I always felt I was on the periphery of the mainstream. A member of an auxiliary group that brands tried to engage with using hunky shirtless models, homoerotic undertones and the occasional Pride flag.
As well-intentioned as these efforts were, they felt half-hearted and inauthentic. Growing up with these messages made me feel even more secluded from the rest of the world. Was I fit enough? Did I dress well enough? Was I proud enough? Was I really a member of the community I identified with?
On June 26, 2016, exactly one year after the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling, I attended my first Pride Parade in New York City with my partner of four years, for my 27th birthday. It was the most exciting experience of my life because it was the first time I really understood what it meant to be a proud gay man.
I remember looking left to right on the crowded street in New York’s West Village neighborhood and my eyes filling with tears. Booth after tent after sign of countless Fortune 100 corporations, were affirming me. Accepting me. Embracing me. These brands weren’t trying to sell me their products; they were there as advocates and members of my community.
That unforgettable experience shaped how I saw my community and my perception of these brands. As a marketing professional, I took home plenty of notes on what it means to connect and build advocacy with the LGBT community and the values that successful brands shared.
Trends within the millennial generation suggest that the best gay outreach messaging is equality messaging, not “gay-specific” messaging. Forty-seven percent of millennials are more likely to support a brand after seeing an equality-themed ad.
My Pride experience didn’t make me feel like an auxiliary afterthought or an outlier. My partner, friends and advertisers all came together to not only include me, but to celebrate me.
Impactful LGBT messaging is true cultural immersion, and brands across the country have stood up to celebrate my community.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority embraced 1:1 community building while at Los Angeles Pride this year with “Virtually Fabulous.” The on-site activation brought Las Vegas to LA Pride (and attendees to Vegas) with an incredible virtual reality experience featuring interactive videos that users could choose from a number of Vegas attractions, ranging from zip lining through the Rio to bottle service at Marquee.
Another value that ran through the brands whose message moved me during Pride, was unapologetic authenticity. Honey Maid did this beautifully in its “This Is Wholesome” TV spot, where it took all the negative and disapproving messages and literally created a message of love.
The strongest theme that tied all these LGBT advertisers together was a message of togetherness. At NY Pride, I felt like a part of an experience that united all sexual and gender identities. This sentiment is illustrated perfectly by a San Francisco Burger King with “The Proud Whopper” that proclaims “We Are All the Same Inside.”
As a gay millennial, equality, authenticity, inclusion and community are all values that deeply resonate with me. Marketers meaning to connect with the LGBT community will be the most successful by joining our community and joining in our celebration.
Vegas VR, Las Vegas’ virtual reality app, sure knows how to get around. Since its debut in March 2016, the app has been downloaded over 11,200 times; has traveled to more than 10 countries; and has been incorporated into over 20 events, activations and trade shows globally.
Las Vegas has quickly become a leader in the virtual reality (VR) destination marketing field and is still one of the only destinations globally to incorporate virtual reality into its marketing efforts and to have a VR app.
Vegas Goes Virtual
For over 35 years, R&R Partners has been the communications agency of record for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA). Campaigns like “What happens here, stays here®” were responsible for creating the modern Las Vegas brand that attracts more than 42 million visitors annually.
But, in order to keep campaigning fresh and relevant, R&R Partners envisioned a new direction for positioning the brand that would tap into the visceral and deeply emotional reasons visitors connect with the city. Thus, Vegas VR, Las Vegas’ virtual reality app, was born.
“Las Vegas is always looking for innovative ways to engage visitors. The VR app allows us to showcase the destination to first-time visitors and remind Vegas enthusiasts about all of the unique offerings,” said Cathy Tull, senior vice president of marketing for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “Vegas VR gives our visitors a new way to connect with Las Vegas.”
When using Vegas VR, consumers are directly connected with a series of original 360-degree interactive videos that become immersive virtual reality experiences when used with a VR viewer compatible with smartphones, such as Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR.
From zip-lining through the Fremont Street Experience aboard Slotzilla, to being serenaded on an authentic gondola ride through The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian and more, Vegas VR places trade show delegates, consumers and would-be visitors alike into some of the most iconic Las Vegas experiences.
A City Seen ‘Round the World
Las Vegas became one of the first destinations to utilize virtual reality technology in March 2016 when Vegas VR was showcased during the ITB travel trade show in Berlin, Germany.
Domestically, the LVCVA introduced the destination’s virtual reality technology to industry and tech media at the 2016 South by Southwest® (SXSW®) Conference and Festivals in Austin, Texas, which celebrates the convergence of the interactive, film and music industries.
Since its initial debut, it has continued to be used on a global scale. From trade shows, to media events and consumer brand activations, Vegas VR continues to shine.
Over summer 2016, Vegas VR went through its first major refresh, which brought new content and a new design. Additional features were added to some of the videos, including fact overlays, scene-change capabilities and time-lapse footage.
The LVCVA’s foray into VR technology started about two years ago when it partnered with Google on GeoVegas, a site that featured steerable 360-degree photos and videos inside Vegas hotels and attractions. It functioned like a digital walk-through, enabling viewers to tour a hotel, nightclub or restaurant.
To create the VR content, R&R Partners worked with the LVCVA and its destination partners to film 360-degree videos of experiences that only exist in Las Vegas using a Pro7 360 Plug-N-Play Holder and seven GoPro Hero 4 Black cameras, professional tools used for filming virtual reality 360-degree content in various environments.
Once the videos were created and stitched together, R&R Partners worked with Wemersive to create the Vegas VR app users can download today. Depending on the content of the video, the entire process can take anywhere from one to six weeks to create.
Vegas VR continues to be one of the most accessible VR apps on the market. All users need is the app, a smartphone and a cardboard viewer. Even without a cardboard viewer, users are able to watch all of the 360-degree videos on the app and interact with the videos using gyroscope, swipe and zoom functions without using additional virtual reality technology.
The Vegas VR app has been downloaded more than 11,200 times. The LVCVA has also distributed its virtual reality content through social media channels and other digital platforms where they’ve received over 17 million views.
The LVCVA and R&R Partners are always looking for new content and will continue to create and add new VR experiences to the app. Moving forward, the LVCVA and R&R Partners will look to add storytelling elements to the VR content and continue to use new elements such as the fact overlays, multiscene capabilities and time-lapse elements.
Vegas VR is available for iOS and Android platforms and is free to download here or through the App Store and Google Play. A selection of 360-degree videos are also available to view on Las Vegas’ YouTube channel.
The LVCVA has also launched VIVA, a dynamic and engaging platform that captures the best Las Vegas has to offer through original destination digital content, and WhereToVegas, a mobile app that provides visitors with a social heat map of trending locations and events in Las Vegas, helping visitors maximize their Vegas vacation experience by informing them of the “hot spots” in town during their stay.
The month of May is the equivalent of the Super Bowl for brands and ad agencies. During this time, media companies announce direction for the coming year. The digital NewFronts were recently created as a means for publishers to gain greater attention and steal share from the television industry, which still commands a majority of ad dollars spent.
I was fortunate to attend a variety of the NewFront presentations and identified some key themes that emerged.
Digital video is where it’s at. Publishers are focused on creating new online video franchises to compete for TV ad dollars. Depending on the publisher, advertiser opportunities range from custom co-branded videos to product integrations to sponsorship to pre/mid-roll placements. Publishers are investing in talent and quality production to swoon advertisers.
Examples of new video franchises include:
Big Problems/Big Thinkers – Bloomberg (@BloombergTV): Academy Award-winning filmmaker Steven Soderbergh and journalist Terre Blair have paired up to create a series with major politicians and leaders to discuss major world problems and potential solutions.
Chance – Hulu (@hulu): Hugh Laurie (House) will star in a psychological thriller as a neuroscientist.
Time 100, The Influencers – Time: Through interviews of unique pairings, such as President Barack Obama and ballet dancer Misty Copeland, influencers react to the impacts of each other’s work and accomplishments.
Virtual reality is the next big thing. While details are scarce at this point, publishers are ready to tap into the immerse experience that VR can provide.
Key announcements include:
Hulu enters into a partnership with Live Nation (@LiveNation), where they will make select concert performances available to VR users.
Time Inc. (@TimeInc) will begin releasing VR content on behalf of its brands such as Time, People and Sports Illustrated…including the fan-favorite, SI Swimsuit franchise.
Live streaming expands. Key announcements were made with regards to live streaming, either as a platform for TV content or general entertainment.
Hulu will offer a new platform for live sports, news and events in early 2017 (price point has yet to be announced).
Yahoo is focused on live streaming sports free, without authentication. They will stream 400+ events in the next year, including a focus on MLB and NHL.
In the case of Buzzfeed (@BuzzFeed), utilizing Facebook Live has finally reached TV-like viewing scale. As of late April, the rubber band/watermelon experiment saw 800k+ concurrent views and 10MM+ total views. Live streaming will invite hiccups though, as many witnessed with the Facebook Live event with President Barack Obama. Some technical glitch on Facebook cut the live-streaming interview short, but thankfully they were simultaneously streaming on YouTube, so all was not lost.
Note, I attended presentations for Buzzfeed, Bloomberg, Hulu, Yahoo, Time Inc. & YouTube, so examples are drawn from those presentations. For a full recap of the highlights, please see Cynopsis Media’s wrap-up from May 16th (here).