It's no secret that VR, and especially AR, will shape the way media and entertainment is consumed in the coming years. Already we can see the way that sports and esports are using the platform to get viewers to the centre of the action.
This in turn means that advertisers need to find ways of getting their products in to these experiences in order to capitalise on the platform. Advir is a company that is not only working on a solution, but is doing it in a non-intrusive way. With a free plug- in, the company ‘indexes’ potential places in a game that can be used for advertising, like a billboard for example, and sells this inventory of indexed areas to advertisers. If you think of a billboard company like JC Decaux or ClearChannel, Advir intend to be the VR and AR equivilient.
The tolerance for disruption in VR is very low compared to the web
Samuel Huber, CEO, Advir
“The goal is to create new standard for advertising, including 3D products,” says Advir CEO, Samuel Huber. “We work with Google, Yahoo and other companies to establish new standards for advertising. We also created a VR pledge, which is more of a moral commitment against intrusive ads.”
Video games have been rife with product placement for many years, occasionally earning criticism. But with VR and AR, intrusion is not only an issue but one that can really affect the experience. “We have this mentality that by giving control to the developer, they say ‘the ads will be here’ and will place them in a certain area or moment. They’re generally quite protective of their content, so they wouldn’t ruin it with a massive banner. It’s kind of self- controlled, in a way.
An example of a living room scenario with potential advertising areas
“If you don’t do that, users are not going to use your app. The tolerance for disruption in VR is very low compared to the web. On the web you can just close a window, you can look at something else. Here, you can't. By selling the spaces to other advertisers, Advir need to work with both the advertisers and the developers to make sure that virtual worlds are not broken.
“There’s control on both ends. They can say ‘I don’t want any gambling advertisers’, but the advertiser can also say ‘I don’t want to advertise in football games’. The long term view is that, with artificial intelligence, we can recognise what type of content it is and match it with the right advertiser.”
At the moment Advir is only available on Unity, with Unreal support about to be developed and further support for other engines in the future. Around 100 developers are currently working with the company and Huber believes that the advertising potential will grow as the medium matures. “We have advertisers who come to us and say ‘okay, we want a campaign that does two million impressions’ and there aren’t enough people in VR to do that at the moment. Advertisers always want to reach their audience. That will never be a problem. We need the industry to grow, and do it quicker.”
An example of the Advir in-app advertising at work in the living room scene
For developers, ad revenue from the free plug-in is not the only benefit to using the service. “We provide analytics, which are very detailed heat maps of where people are looking” says Huber. “You can replay where a player has been moving. You can aggregate all of that per session. Maybe a developer creates a room and no one goes in it, you can figure out why someone isn’t doing that. We connect to Cognitive VR, which is the leader for VR analytics and by using our solution, you also get theirs.”
With the desire to be non-intrusive, Advir also set up a VR pledge with another analytics company. “It is a commitment against intrusive ads, which is kind of the public version of the advertising committee we are working with behind closed doors. We have fifteen members, like Orange and Yahoo and a few VR studios. It’s kind of a badge that you can say ‘I commit to not ruin VR’, basically.”
Even though advertising in VR has been done before, there hasn’t been a system that really provides accurate targeting. “The reason this didn’t take off so well in the past was that, in the backend, ads were not able to be served properly or you couldn’t target the right person. Now with ad tech being what it is, we’re really able to target. We know what you like because we have access to a lot of data. We can cross-promote with the web as well, so we know what you looked at and retarget you in VR with a 3D placement of that.
“The dangerous thing is, for example with social VR, where you have multiple people in the room at the same time. It’s almost an existential question. Should they see the same thing or shouldn’t they? That’s something a developer can decide if they want a unique placement. But if it’s a game where you’re on your own, you and I will see different things.”