Why the future of digital video is immersive
A view from Stuart Flint

Why the future of digital video is immersive

The managing director at AOL UK explains why brands must pay attention to consumers to help immersive formats reach the masses.

The digital video revolution has been vast. We now have unfathomable amounts of news, data and content at our fingertips and emerging technology is constantly reshaping the relationship between brands and consumers. Immersive formats such as VR and 360 blend the physical and digital worlds to create a new storytelling medium: you can be racing through the streets of Rio de Janiero in an action-packed video game, or reaching new heights on a rollercoaster from the comfort of your desk.

But whilst publishers and advertisers are convinced that the future of digital video is immersive, how do we better engage consumers and bring them along on the journey so that immersive experiences can become truly mainstream?

In our latest piece of research, we found that immersive formats are yet to take off among UK consumers, with only 20% of British consumers watching virtual reality video once a week or more (vs 28% globally). What’s more 68% of consumers in the UK say they never watch VR, compared to 58% globally. So, whilst there is an appetite for it, there’s clearly work to be done.

All roads lead to escapism?

On a personal level, I can see huge potential in being able to transport consumers to another place and time, and that level of escapism is what brands need to tap into to better engage with consumers. We’re seeing this more and more, as brands invest more in the growing phenomenon of live and immersive video to bring consumers in the fold.

Just look at high street brand Ted Baker’s campaign "Keeping up with the Bakers", which previewed its spring/summer 2017 range using live video on social media platforms. This exclusive feature, developed as part of its multi-channel strategy enabled the brand to be more accessible for consumers by expanding its narrative.

And it’s not just the fashion world tapping into new technology, it’s happening across the car industry too. In April, McLaren and the digital engineering and test centre created automotive experiences using VR technology at the Virtual Reality Show, which gave petrolheads an insight into the design and manufacturing process of some of the world’s fastest cars.

Immersive formats are increasingly disrupting the market, propelling the content brands are producing to greater heights with new forms of storytelling. Our research also found that 68% of buyers in the UK are looking to create better user experiences when developing new video formats and with 71% of Brits now watching digital video on devices every day, it’s clear that audiences are keen to be engrossed by the level of escapism new technology creates.

Incorporating new tech into everyday behaviour

Although emerging technology is yet to become mainstream, 62% of advertisers in the UK believe there is room for VR in the digital video marketplace, compared to 64% of our global counterparts. What’s more, new formats such as Outstream will drive revenue in the next 12 months, according to 55% of buyers surveyed in the UK (vs 50% globally), suggesting that this is a lucrative area commercially.

Immersive digital video is the future of advertising

The good news is that over half of consumers in the UK are watching more digital videos today compared to one year ago, so advertisers and publishers should be prepared to invest more to boost engagement with new formats which are yet to breakthrough to mass audiences.

There are companies out there paving the way for truly immersive experiences that reach the consumer. RYOT, for instance, puts a spotlight on the world’s key global and social issues, such as the devastation Hurricane Matthew caused in Haiti, through innovative 360-degree and virtual reality experiences for viewers – the very formats publishers and advertisers believe will be creating bigger revenue streams within the next year.

To create better engagement with audiences, advertisers and publishers must evaluate the formats that are best suited for their platforms, to develop content and tell stories that are meaningful for consumers and framed in the best way for the environment they are in. Publishers (including gaming, content brands, developers and more) and technology players can lead the way in understanding their audiences and test and learn with new content streams within emerging formats and technologies. They can bring the ad industry on this journey sharing these insights and helping brands shape their content in these new worlds of immersive experiences.

The ways in which we present content is key – quality storytelling in video has never been so important as the internet becomes increasingly saturated. We need to stay ahead of the panoramic curve when it comes to immersive formats such as VR, Live and 360 video to create better experiences for our audiences and create a path for consumers to follow.

Stuart Flint is managing director at AOL UK