USA TODAY NETWORK Launches VR Series “VRtually There,” Introduces Cubemercials

By USA TODAY Network InSites Archives
Cover image for  article: USA TODAY NETWORK Launches VR Series “VRtually There,” Introduces Cubemercials

Since the advent of television and subsequently online video, advertising has been an integral part of program development and consumer engagement.  Fast forward to today -- with the convergence of technology, mobile and social, media is engaging more directly with brands and consumers than ever before.  Questions surrounding these new tech-driven experiences include: how to scale, how to make content delivery affordable (to produce and consume), how to connect this immersive highly personal experience with social media and more. We are operating in a new frontier as technologies including VR, AR and AI are driving next-gen storytelling today.

We can expect to see a diverse range of headsets introduced by major players like Google, Samsung and Google Cardboard alongside an influx of affordable options from China.  As most of us cannot dedicate a complete room in our homes to VR, many of these new viewing devices will utilize your smartphone for seamless delivery of experiences.

Last Thursday, we released the first episode of our weekly VR show VRtually There where we partnered with Toyota Camry to introduce our first “cubemercial” -- an ad unit native to VR that was built by our in-house product team. The series will introduce new episodes on a weekly basis across USA TODAY NETWORK properties, our USA TODAY app, VR Stories and on YouTube.  We will provide advertisers with post-campaign analytics including consumption metrics and information about whether their ads were viewed with sound and in full “VR” as opposed to “360 video” mode on non-VR devices.

Here is a snapshot of our path to launch.  The past year has been filled with experimenting, learning, failing, honing, seeing things differently and bringing marketers along for the ride in Virtual Reality at the USA TODAY NETWORK. The journey with advertisers really began at CES this January in Las Vegas where we met with dozens of brands, showed them our early concepts, solicited feedback, listened and used the conversation to evolve our thinking and to inform the shape of our virtual storytelling content and ad products.

In Cannes for the Advertising Festival this June, we learned that consuming VR while having a glass of rosé could be fun (kidding!) and shared our learnings and experiences with more marketers.  We received coverage from our meetings in Cannes, which you can read here.

During the past year, we have worked with brands to put viewers onto Indy racetracks and into burning houses. We have taken them on death-defying adventures (see photos above).  We have transported them to the Australian Outback and to the beautiful landscapes of Eastern Europe. The Burning House video, as we now refer to it internally, was the most watched video for an entire week across the USA Today Network, proving to us that great storytelling in a new medium can actually scale.

As you might imagine, we are very excited about our innovations in VR, which are available on the USA Today app -- along with our virtual ad product called the “cubemercial.”  It's our effort to help create ad standards in the space and to build advertising that takes advantage of the medium.

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