Peek Behind the Sneaks: Advertising Does a 360° with Virtual Reality

Kevin demos #MktgVR during Sneaks at Adobe Summit 2017.

Virtual reality is unlocking a new world of immersive, transformative experiences for audiences and storytellers alike. It’s a perfect medium for sharing experiences, inspiring empathy and transporting the imagination in entirely new ways.

But a healthy and vibrant content ecosystem can only persist if brands are able to properly monetize the experience. Kevin Smith, a senior research scientist at Adobe, is working to address this. “Content creators are constantly having to find the right balance when it comes to advertising, and VR provides the opportunity to do so in an organic, non-intrusive way,” he says.

It’s a crucial point. Like any new medium, VR and 360° video need viable economic models to fund content development and address consumer adoption.

That’s something Kevin takes personally. “I started my career as a web engineer, and that got me interested in analytics. I’ve always been interested in taking new, exciting technology and figuring out how it can be incorporated with creativity and data to enable new experiences. At Adobe I’ve been fortunate to be a part of pioneering mobile marketing and social marketing, so VR fits very naturally into that.”

At Adobe Summit 2017, Kevin demonstrated a sneak technology called #MktgVR that combines Adobe Creative Cloud and Adobe Experience Cloud, using Adobe After Effects engine with profiling, and analytics and targeting data to dynamically inject video advertising inside virtual worlds and 360° video.

During the sneak, Kevin showed how advertising that exists in a natural, virtual environment — such as the electronic billboards and bus signage shown in a 360° video of the Las Vegas Strip — can be selected and dynamically replaced by advertising assets of the marketer’s choosing.

“Adobe is in a unique position because we have leading products in all of the different areas you need to make something like this work — the video editing engine, audience management, the analytics you need to target your advertising and the delivery system. Between the Creative Cloud and the Experience Cloud, all the pieces are there. We just need to bring them together,” he explains.

The ability to place targeted advertising in a VR environment is sure to intrigue cutting-edge marketers, but the thing that’s most exciting to Kevin is the uniquely unobtrusive quality VR offers to both advertisers and the audience.

“Let’s face it, sometimes being a marketer is frustrating,” he notes. “You put a lot of creative energy, thought and strategy into campaigns, but people don’t always like them, or even want to see them because the advertising itself is presented in a way that’s disruptive to the audience experience. That has the potential to be different in VR because it offers a realistic, real world experience, and the real world is full of advertising — it actually enhances the experience.”

It’s true. Try to imagine a world without advertising. It might sound great at first, but really think about it — what would Times Square be like without billboards or electronic screens? Or, imagine a world where buses have no signage and T-shirts have no logos. It might seem generic, empty, or even unreal.

“With VR, marketers have a great opportunity to evolve advertising in a very intuitive, non-intrusive, non-disruptive direction,” Kevin adds.

This story is part of a series that will give you a closer look at the people and technology that were showcased as part of Adobe Sneaks. Watch other Sneaks from this year’s Summit here and read other Peek Behind the Sneaks stories here.