Creating a memorable experience

With launches of VR headsets coming thick and fast – Oculus Rift, Sony PlayStation and HTC Vive are poised for consumer launches early next year – 2016 is already being dubbed the year of virtual reality.

Opinions differ on the growth of VR, for example Tractica says consumer spending on VR software and hardware is expected to reach $21.8 billion, and Digi-Capital goes even further to suggest the VR/AR market will reach a staggering $150 billion by 2020. Even though the precise future isn’t clear, we can see these impressive growth projections greatly outperform other advertising markets and could even be likened to the emergence of television advertising.

Brands are keen to be part of this revolution and are looking to VR as a medium for inspiring and engaging consumers with sponsored content.

At Happy Finish, we have been specialising in creating VR experiences for brands for the past three years. We have built up a portfolio of strong, engaging campaigns for leading brands such as Asda, Ted Baker, River Island, RNLI, Honeywell, Subway, Vauxhall, Renault and WHIST, which is a project funded by Arts Council England.

We help brands create virtual content that is powerful, compelling and unforgettable

These early-adopters have earned some great PR from getting involved with VR right at the start and have used the medium to forge powerful bonds with consumers.

VR has a powerful influence on consumer behaviour and boosts people’s propensity to purchase. And VR ads have also been shown to increase click-through rates. When consumers don the headset and headphones, they are transported into an all-enveloping sensory experience.

VR is seamlessly immersive. You can look straight ahead or turn your head to see what’s behind you. You can gaze above and look beneath you. It is a truly 360-degree experience.

We help brands create virtual content that is powerful, compelling and unforgettable. We believe that brands which can offer consumers a stunning VR experience will be remembered and respected for years to come.

The spooky Halloween VR experience we created for Asda is an example of the high-quality content that can give a brand a real point of difference. The campaign helped the retailer gain traction on social media and boosted its standing as a store to visit for Halloween shopping.

The four-minute film, shot on a 360-degree camera, told the story of a group of trick or treaters who wander into a haunted house and have some spooky experiences. It was shot in 3D video and can be viewed on YouTube 360, launched earlier this year to showcase 360-degree video. It garnered some 1.3 million views.

Asda customers were able to experience the film in VR on their smartphones using Asda-branded Google Cardboard headsets which were handed out free at some stores. When viewed on a mobile, the film offered TrueView cards, a YouTube feature giving extra information and click-to-buy options.

Chris Chalmers, senior director for digital and direct communications at Asda, says: “Working with Google, YouTube, Happy Finish and Carat on trialling a new, fun way to immerse shoppers in our Halloween range has proved to be a real success for us.

“Our customers are ahead of the curve when it comes to social media and we’ve had a positive reaction from them. We’ve been really impressed with the number of people who have viewed and interacted with the video.”

The film further boosted the reputation of Happy Finish as a leading creative force in the world of branded VR content. Over the past few years we have grown from not just being a photography and motion special effects studio in London’s creative centre Shoreditch, into a global creative production agency, but now also specialising in virtual reality and augmented reality with proven experience worldwide.

With studios in London, Shanghai, Mumbai, Portland and New York, global brands are flocking to try out our VR campaigns, and we have recently signed a strategic partnership deal with advertising giant WPP’s GroupM division in Asia-Pacific to work on VR campaigns with its clients.

In another much-loved and highly engaging VR campaign, we took 450 plus Londoners on a virtual tour of New York for the launch of Subway’s Beef Pastrami Melt sub. This sandwich promises to offer the taste of New York City, with two yellow New York cabs on the South Bank of the Thames and a bell boy to invite passersby to sit inside and try a free pastrami sub.

While they were eating, they put on a VR headset and were taken on a virtual tour through the streets of New York. We recreated the effect of sitting on top of the cab, allowing them to look all around as they travelled through the city and experienced the New York taste of the pastrami sub. This created a highly realistic multi-sensory audiovisual experience and many customers commented that they felt they had actually been transported to the city.

The campaign won great headlines and significant social media shares. VR and social media go hand in hand and people are keen to share their VR experiences on social platforms. It is no surprise that two of the big VR headset manufacturers are also significant players in the world of social media and user-generated content.

Last year, Facebook bought Oculus Rift, which will launch its sophisticated headset next year. Google, which owns user-generated video content platform YouTube, launched Google Cardboard last year. This is a simple and low-cost headset made of cardboard that consumers can construct themselves, slotting in their mobile phone as the screen. Cardboard, which won the grand prix at this year’s Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity in the mobile category, offers brands some great ways to engage their consumers.

There are some really interesting methods of distributing Cardboards. For example, in Chile, in conjunction with Metropolis Films, we created a VR experience for alcoholic beverage brand Becker Beer. The campaign allowed consumers to turn the packaging of the 24-can box of Becker into a Google Cardboard headset. They could then watch two VR films we created for the campaign with Madre, the Buenos Aires branch of creative agency Mother.

VR also has great uses as a sales tool. In one of our VR experiences for Honeywell, the solution immerses Honeywell’s trade show visitors into a virtual world to demonstrate its aircraft on-board products and solutions. Where previously it transported a segment of a plane to trade shows to demonstrate its products, it can dispense with this using the Happy Finish VR system. This has helped Honeywell make huge savings in transportation costs and has boosted their sales offering.

Over the next few years, having a VR strategy will become as important for brands as having a social media or mobile strategy. As ever, it will be the most engaging and creative work that wins over consumers. With our wealth of 360-VR creative storytelling expertise, Happy Finish is well placed to help brands create these new immersive content experiences for their campaigns.