Looking back, in 2015 YouTube launched what seemed to be a half-step between traditional video and Virtual Reality. The introduction, 360-degree video, let viewers see into the frame. If the video filmed a concert, then viewers could turn the camera to see the sky or look at people in the audience and then pan back to the stage. Later that year, Facebook introduced its own version of 360. CEO Mark Zuckerberg dubbed it a "step towards even more immersive experiences.”
In the intervening two years or so, 360 hasn't set the world on fire. In 2017 though, that is changing. Snapchat's recent backing of 360 has given the technology a second wind. Advertisers who dismissed 360 as a gimmick should give it another look because 360 offers better engagement than standard video ads and is a gateway for VR, which is on its way to going mainstream.
360 Video Success Stories
Though 360 hasn't been huge yet, there have been encouraging use cases. Thisteaser video for Clash of Clans 360 for instance, went viral in late 2015, netting over 59 million views at this writing. Another 360 video for Clash of Clans: Hog Rider 360° has gotten over 49 million.
Elsewhere, travel companies and tourism boards have experimented with 360, as the format seems a natural vehicle for showing off a locale. Car companies have also tried 360. BMW used the format for a video featuring model Gigi Hadid that got attention last year. Mercedes-Benz has also used it to show what it's like to drive an E-Class around Lisbon. In the entertainment field, Walt Disney's Jungle Book, Warner Bros.' Kong: Skull Island and others have used 360 to spice up their trailers. However, many have echoed the complaint that 360 isn't as immersive as VR, and it's too much of a bother for casual viewers.
A Majority Advertisers & Publishers Expect 360 Video To Be a Top Revenue Driver in 2017 (AOL Study)With digital video quickly becoming a popular option for both creatives and consumers, it becomes increasingly…thevideoink.com
A New Approach to 360 Videos
That's changing. While Facebook and Google laid the groundwork for 360, in mid-2016, Snapchat began supporting 360 as well. Snapchat's approach has been a bit different. Not only are the videos only 10 seconds long, but viewers can move them forward as well as sideways and backward.
More recently, Netflix and Chick -fil-A have experimented with the format. OmniVirt, which helps advertisers provide 360 experiences on Snapchat, claims that the ads provide better click-throughs and higher engagement than standard video. Universal Pictures told Digiday that it saw twice the engagement on a 360 video for Fifty Shades Darker than it has for non-360 Snapchat ads.
Snapchat's exploration of 360 video will continue; TechCrunch notes that the company has looked into creating and marketing a 360 camera. Snap Spectacles, Snapchat's head-mounted video camera, also seems like a logical way to provide more 360 video to the format.
The key point to consider is that mobile video is evolving. With its use of filters, Snapchat has mainstreamed Augmented Reality for social video. While full-on VR is a few years away for most consumers, 360 is a good middle step, sort of VR-lite. Snapchat is well positioned to mainstream 360 as well.
With Snapchat's backing, marketers have cause to reassess 360, which offers better overall engagement — when viewers opt to tune in. In its own analysis of a Columbia Sportswear campaign, Google found that the view-through rate on 360 was less than for standard ads, indicating that "viewers aren't always in the mood to interact with 360 video.” However, 360 ads also provided a higher click-through rate, which showed that when consumers were in the mood to watch a 360 video, they spent more time with that video.
Now that 360 is available in all the major video formats, advertisers should look at 360 as an opportunity for creative experimentation. Few advertisers have thought to gamify the experience, for example. What if a brand offered prizes for viewers who found hidden clues or Easter eggs (in-jokes and references planted in the background) to encourage engagement?
Live 360 video has also been out for year or so, but few advertisers have done much with it, despite continued interest in live video.
Advertisers who have dismissed 360 should take another look. With VR still in its infancy, advertisers should look at 360 as test bed for what will likely become a dominant medium in the next decade.
Bio: Peter Dakich is vice president of business development at video advertising platform GlassView.