Nicholas Manluccia published an outstanding article in AdAge last week, laying out a few guidelines for marketing in virtual reality. His main point: advertising shouldn't ever mess with user experience. Marketers need to exercise restraint, shouldn't sacrifice performance and give consumers a choice in terms of the advertising they receive. While all are great points, we feel the article misses a crucial one.
The first rule of virtual reality is a no-brainer: you shouldn't make the user throw up. Rollercoasters are popular, but they are the exception; in reality no one wants to use a technology that makes them sick. The second rule is more relevant for advertisers: you shouldn't break the presence.
The concept of presence is incredibly important in virtual reality. It's the cornerstone of the immersive experience. If your drag out the user from the virtual world you created, the magic breaks, immediately.
Never break the presence
Manluccia suggests advertisers should give consumers a choice, citing examples of video streaming services offering options of watching two minutes of standard, passive ads, or playing with an interactive ad for thirty seconds. We are aware that the article does not suggest actual video ads or interactive ads in VR, it's more about the choice, but still: anything like this should absolutely never happen in virtual reality.
In fact, we believe the missing 6th point is by far the most important:
6. Never break the presence. All advertising in virtual reality must feel as natural as possible. The user lives a "second life" in virtual reality, and as there are no pre-rolls to watch when you do something in real life, there shouldn't be any in a virtual environment.
You might argue that native advertising is a good choice for VR, and you are right. A branded experience can work very well indeed - just take a look at our #campaignwatch column. But is only a part of the story.
We would like to introduce the concept of organic advertising. Organic, as it feels natural, and never out of place. It does not break the presence, it's not unexpected, and it does not interrupt the user.
This includes native advertising, but not just that. Ads on a control panel or in the main menu, or ads on virtual billboards when you are virtually driving your Jaguar on a race track are organic, but not native.
Advertisers must embrace organic advertising in VR. It's the only reasonable way.