In the aftermath of the Facebook fallout, times are tough in the advertising industry. Adtech companies around the world are starting to get exposed for malicious practices, and internet users are becoming increasingly annoyed with the way their personal data is mistreated. In addition, with the emerging blockchain industry, topics of privacy and decentralisation are trendier than ever.
So, as the first adtech company in the VR/AR space, our position is often questioned. Are advertising practices going to change at all, because it’s VR? What are we doing differently? How are we handling data? In this post, I’m addressing these questions head on, and sharing our vision for advertising in VR, to create a better future for the industry.
But before discussing advertising in a new medium, we first need to understand a major difference between the web and VR.
Private vs public experience
Browsing the web is a private experience – what you see is unique to you, and you are not sharing that experience with anyone. Two people can access the same domain at the same time, such as Facebook or Netflix, and see different things tailored to their preferences – but each user is having a great experience. Building on this concept, advertisers started experimenting with behavioural targeting – tailoring the adverts for each user, based on their demographic, geolocation, browsing history, and many other parameters. By showing users ads they are more likely to respond to, publishers maximise revenue, advertisers maximise ROI, and users see less spam. Behavioural targeting is now widely spread, and everyone on the web user receives a bespoke advertising experience.
In a previous post, I argued that VR will soon evolve beyond gaming to become our next social hub. Specifically, users will spend time in hyper targeted, user generated communities where they will share, discuss, exchange and meet people sharing their passions. However, unlike the web, these communities are a public, shared experience where multiple people meet in a common virtual space with their avatars, instead of hiding being screens.
The uniformity rule
The more people you get together in an experience, the more its uniformity matters – regardless of where users are physically based, of the devices they use to connect, of the strength of their wifi, they should all have the same experience. If experiences were to differ – say for example, one user sees 5 chairs and another only sees 3 – people would struggle to explain what they see to each other, which would create communication problems and awkward situations, killing the immersion. Just like in the real world, everyone should be subject to the same laws of physics, and see the same reality. It is just common sense.
Unlike the web, VR experiences are shared, and everyone should see the same reality
At Admix, one of our internal motto is ‘VR first, ads second’. It means that we are serving VR developers before advertisers. The last thing we’d want to do is to mess up the worlds’ uniformity. In our opinion, the most natural way to advertise in VR is via product placements – integrating native elements as part of the scene, such as a billboard or a 3D product. To respect the rule of uniformity, all users sharing an experience must therefore see the same placements.
That is fundamentally incompatible with behavioural targeting. In VR, the advertising experience will be publicly shared, instead of being tailored to the individual. It will be a huge change for advertisers – what data can they now rely on to maximise the efficiency of there campaigns?
Contextual vs personal data
We’ve established that in VR, social communities will be hyper targeted. The platforms enabling this – High Fidelity, Sansar and others – are giving users tools to build their own worlds, where they can live, share and immerse themselves in their passions.
This change of frame – from large, generic web destinations, to hyper targeted communities – is a silver lining for advertisers. These communities will be so specific, that it will enable them to target users based on contextual data instead of personal data. Think about a VR community built by, and aimed at fans of Arsenal FC living in South London. Without harvesting any personal data from these users, advertisers can already target them with relevant placements: tickets to attend the next game, club merchandise to try-in-VR-before-you-buy, or pub options to watch the next game on TV.
VR communities are so specific, that advertisers can target the context instead of the user
In VR, understanding the context of the experience will replace the need for personal data. Targeting will still be precise enough, reaching users at the right time; but users won’t need to be tracked across experiences.
At Admix, we have developed advanced tools for developers to be able to categorise their content – is it an app about sport? food? travel? We then use those categories to filter only relevant advertisers, and our technology natively integrates them to the content.
Of course, another company could develop an advertising solution that has no regards for uniformity, immersion and personal data. They’d be dead wrong and wouldn’t last long. VR gives us the opportunity to build a better future for advertising, and we are grabbing it with both hands. The users will judge.
Image sources: High Fidelity, LiveLikeVR