Google is Trying out Advertising in Virtual Reality

In a move that only managed to shock one senile old squirrel, Google employees have revealed in a blog post that the company has an early prototype of VR advertising. Given that Google’s raison d’être is selling advertising space and that they practically invented mobile VR, this almost not news.

The prototype was developed by the experimental Area 120 group within the company and is aimed at mobile VR. So think of something like Cardboard and its descendents.

Early Days

Being completely serious for a moment, it’s inevitable that the medium of VR (and AR) will be used for marketing. But while we’ve pretty much figured out advertising on radio, TV and (to a lesser extent) the web, it’s an open question when it comes to VR.

The problem is that unwanted VR experiences can be very off-putting. If you think the popup ads at the start of a YouTube video are annoying, imagine suddenly being flung out of an airplane or stuck in a disturbing ad for a new horror film. It’s like poor Marty McFly in Back to the Future Part II, where a giant holographic shark tries to eat him. No fun at all.

The goal therefore is to have a form of advertising that is still eye-catching, but doesn’t actually make you want to tear your HMD off.

Hip to be Square

What they’ve come up with is, well, a little underwhelming. It does however manage not to be massively intrusive or disturbing,

Essentially you’ll see a little floating cube in the VR environment which, when activated, will expand into a video ad. So essentially they’ve taken an existing advertising method for the web and just shifted it into VR. No fundamental changes at all.

But Wait, There’s More

Just not from Google right now. While the Google VR advertising experiment is not terribly exciting, VR marketing is taking off in other places. The automotive industry in particular is absolutely in love with VR as a way to sell its cars.

For example, back in 2015 Lexus made this attractive 360-degree 3D video:

There are heaps more examples from the car world and it’s likely they’ll become more sophisticated and more interactive as time goes by.

The Shape of Things to Come

There’s an episode of the superlative show Futurama where the hapless hero Fry learns that in the future advertising is beamed straight into your dreams. Such a nightmarish idea is rightly unacceptable, but what about our VR dreams? Here’s hoping that Google finds the solution where everyone’s a winner.

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