Cannes Lions 2016: Traditional Creatives In VR Are Square Pegs In A Round Hole

by: Navjot Singh on 25 June 2016

Ola Björling, Global Director of VR At Mediamonks Explains Where Creative Leaders And Decision Makers Within Agencies Can Make Full Use Of Virtual Reality

"VR is an extremely multidisciplinary medium. It takes a lot of things which would be right for VR to work its true magic. There is a growing understanding of that.” - Ola Björling

VR has been one of the big topics that has been on everyone’s lips at Cannes Lions 2016 Festival of Creativity. 12ahead.com had the chance to catch up Ola Björling, Global Director of Virtual Reality (VR) at MediaMonks and get his insights on how best creative leaders and decision makers within the agency world, as well as his clients, can make full use of VR to get the best ROI.

In response to the key question of what creatives are doing wrong and where they can improve, Ola said: “One thing that has been going wrong, and people doing wrong with VR is that everyone has been chasing the first- the first to do a specific type of experience, the first to do VR within a market segment for the first airline and so on, and that window of opportunity has gone- they have all been spoken of pretty much and that is really good to get out of the way. Everyone from our many brands at least and many agencies have had their first go at virtual reality; so they are licking their wounds from that experience because the first time it is always tricky! Now that you can't be first anymore, and so instead you have to look at, what are we doing VR for? What is the next step? And it is isn't to just tick a box in the company’s media plan. I think we will see a lot of utilisation of VR for the strengths of the medium, not retrofitting a rectangle into VR.”

He went on to explain: “So, it is best to take a print idea or a film idea or anything else, and squish it into virtual reality because that is figuratively and metaphorically a square peg in a round hole. It needs to be a VR idea from the ground up, and then execute that with great craftsmanship. VR is an extremely multidisciplinary medium. It takes a lot of things which would be right for VR to work its true magic. There is a growing understanding of that.”

Investment, Ola believes, is not being used properly in the technology as it should. He went on to explain: “What we have been seeing is that for some very good reasons, people have not really invested in VR because it is an unproven market. The target demographic is not quite there. So, people have an interest but also hesitations too. So, they throw some pocket change at a VR project, but pocket change investment will give you pocket change results. Then they get a first VR production that wasn't what they thought it could be and then some people judge VR by that outcome. In judging VR by what's been done so far is like judging a film by what the Lumière brothers did in 1895. We've come much further and with VR we will go further as well.”

In response to misinterpretation by many that VR is the same as YouTube 360 video, Ola went on to say: "Clicking and dragging inside a rentable, or holding your phone up to what is commonly referred to as 'Magic Window Mode', is not virtual reality because virtual reality is the replacement of one or more sensory inputs with virtual content and if you are looking at the rectangle then you are almost pretty much looking at the room around that rectangle. They are not VR experiences. You need a head mounted display and headphone because we are only dealing with two sensors so far (that may improve). That's a common misunderstanding. However, I do believe there is a great value in those platforms because it is easier to look at. There is this barrier of entry into VR because you got to find you phone and find your headset and put it all together and it is a bit of an undertaking.”

He also made it quite clear that measurement, attribution and optimization of a VR campaign is not going to be an easy task (for now): “Metrics for measuring results from a VR campaign is sort of a new field. A lot of companies are coming up around this that are selling that as their business concept but obviously they are going to fighting the Googles of this world. They can definitely harvest data for that. That is going to be an uphill battle for the new vendors. I haven't seen that many proper scientific cases of improving return of investment from a VR campaign. But I do think that it is no secret to anyone that eyeballs on a VR campaign are worth infinitely more than eyeballs on a banner ad. You reach people on a profoundly deep level in VR and that is also the strength of the medium, and if you are doing the math and seeing what you are paying per user for a VR production, then it is not going to make sense because you have to understand what you can affect with those instruments and how deep you can reach into them.”

Ola rounded off the interview with his top three best practice takeaways:

1. It takes an understanding of what the VR medium is. It is a new medium and takes time to get used to. You really need a rooted understanding of what that means. A good VR idea is one that enables the user to feel present in a time and space that couldn't otherwise be in. On a fundamental level that's what VR does best. That could be anything. That could be you being the size of a molecule or that could be you flying over a volcano.

2. Think of perspective- not just physical prospective in terms of what you see but in terms of cultural and emotional perspective. It can bring you closer to people ad bridge cultural and social gaps in a way that no other medium do.

3. VR can allow you do things that you cannot otherwise do if you have an interactive piece. You are not doing it on behalf of another character like you would inhabit like in a game for example, because it is truly you carrying out the action. What's happening in VR is happening to you. It is not happening to someone else that you are imaging yourself into. If you have those things you have in mind then there are fantastic doors opening for what you can achieve with VR.