Simon Gosling: »The power of VR is that involves people in ways that we have never seen before. They will remember this experience and because they are involved they will understand it. And that is why I see a great potential for advertising in VR.«
Simon Gosling is Creative Evangelist at Happy Finish, a London-based creative services company, offering a one-stop-shop 360 VR service. As a Creative Evangelist he is a devoted virtual reality (VR) advocate, helping people (and clients) recognize the power that virtual reality has in storytelling. In November, he is coming to the media trends conference SEMPL in Portorož, Slovenia, where he will show some great examples of how brands are already using VR to connect with their audiences.
Your “job title” is Creative Evangelist. What kind of gospel do you preach?
About three years ago, a young, 19 year old, called Palmer Luckey, set up a business in his parents’ garage in California. His dream was to create the best virtual reality headset and experience that we have ever seen. He succeeded in making a headset called Oculus Rift, which keeps up with your head movement and is able to show you high definition images. Suddenly, for the first time, virtual reality was able to take you to places you have never been to before. Palmer Luckey is now very famous, having sold his business to Facebook for $2 billion, aged just 22! He now wants to make sure that people take VR seriously.
Palmer Luckey has many followers on Twitter, who, like myself, educate audiences about the amazing power of VR and he refers to them as VR Evangelists. So, I am not the only Creative Evangelist, it is actually a Silicon Valley job title, given to people who recognize the potential of VR. On one hand, I am going to SEMPL in the hope of developing new business relationships, but on the other hand I will be there to explain to audiences how VR can transform the way they share stories and increase sales.
You claim that virtual reality will transform the advertising industry, just as the invention of television did in the Mad Men era. Why do you think that VR will have such an influence on advertising?
In terms of VR influence on advertising, VR is here to stay; this technology is going to happen. One of the things I like about Mad Men, was how in the first season the heroes of the agency were Creatives who were making radio commercials and posters, in the second and third seasons it was those who created TV commercials. Today’s leading Creatives are those that do integrated digital content, virtual reality being an important part of that. In fact, a VR project by The New York Times, called ‘The Displaced’ just won the Grand Prix at Cannes. (It is worth noting that The New York Times gave away 1.5 million Google Cardboard headsets to its subscribers, last November, with a further 300,000 given away recently, to it’s most active VR users. Google cardboard is a simple, inexpensive cardboard headset, with two plastic lenses, which becomes a VR headset when you simply pace your smartphone inside).
2,100 years ago, Confucius said: “Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I will understand.” The power of VR is that involves people in ways that we have never seen before. They will remember this experience and because they are involved they will understand it. And that is why I see a great potential for advertising in VR.
VR in advertising is –at least for now–, something that brands are just starting to experiment with and we can only imagine all the possibilities that this technology enables. Can you give us some examples of successful VR campaigns?
What we are seeing is, that more is being spent on VR experiences as brands recognize that 360 works and delivers great ROI. In collaboration with creative agency Space out of London, Happy Finish recently created a VR guided tour of a distillery for a Glenfiddich whisky. The film is brilliant; users are taken on a journey and start by soaring above the Scottish countryside. From there they are taken into the distillery, where they become immersed in the story about how whisky is made distilled and matured in barrels. It was filmed in the surrounding countryside and a 360 green screen studio. A range high-end production techniques was used, so it has all the production value that you would normally expect in TV commercials except that it is done in 360. What Glenfiddich is doing with it, is a series of experiential tasting events in leading bars and travel retail environments across the world, such as duty free shops at airports. It is a really lovely experience, great storytelling, and I will also be showing it to the audience at SEMPL.
In November, you are coming to the SEMPL conference in Slovenia. What will be your message to the SEMPL audience?
At the end of the day all these things I was talking about are just tools. You shouldn’t use them for the sake of using them, but should if they enable you to elevate the way you share your stories with your customers. It is always about storytelling first and the tools come second.
This year's SEMPL is a story about 1,000 satisfied visitors, a story about a full conference hall, many inspiring seminars and presentations, a story about new ideas and knowledge, new business contacts, great party and you. If you were with us, you know what we talk about – and if you were not, you will come next year.
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