Best Branded Content of April: The VR Wave Is Here
Last month, the folks down the street at Framestore, a VR creative shop in Soho, let me stop by and geek out with all of their latest experiences. The biggest highlight was HTC Vive.
Vive, which came out April 5, is, at $800, the most expensive VR headset available on the market, battling the Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear for pole position. Right now, it has one big advantage: It lets you move around. Vive comes with two motion controllers that allow you to move freely within the boundaries of the VR world, instead of just observing it. With a Vive strapped to my face, I shot a bow and arrow at medieval targets, tested my sword skills in Fruit Ninja, and painted art that froze in mid-air with Tilt Brush.
But without a doubt, the best experience was when I was transported to a virtual office, picked up every coffee cup and stapler in sight, and chucked them violently against the wall. For 15 minutes, I was in heaven. I recommend that everyone try it out as therapy replacement as soon as they can.
Which brings me to IKEA.
As it turns out, I’m not the only VR user who enjoys throwing virtual objects against a wall. In April, IKEA released the IKEA VR Experience on Steam, an open-source game platform for Vive users. The app is meant for customizing an IKEA kitchen. Ultimately, however, people just wanted to throw meatballs at their kitchen cabinets.
Faced with enthusiastic user demand, IKEA released an app update that included a meatball-throwing game.
(“Update: Adding Meatballs”—that’s just beautiful copywriting.)
Digiday noticed that someone uploaded a video to YouTube of this blissful meatball-throwing experience, and this video description captures the overall sentiment of the Steam commenters, who are leaving hilarious yet loving reviews on the app’s page.
“I want you all to know that I spent 44 minutes throwing meatballs around a virtual kitchen and loved every second,” axleman1011 writes. “There is not much else to do, but if you are lucky enough to own a Vive you can pick up this meat tossing simulation for the low price of free on Steam.”
I know it’s weird for me to ask you to read Steam reviews, but they’re worth it. The positive feedback shows what happens when a brand is able to adapt on a new platform. If you build a meatball-throwing game, they will come.
Throughout April, we saw several other bold brands venture into the VR space, essentially forcing the advertising press to write about them. Who am I to resist?
Let’s take a look at the brands that scored VR hits in addition to the rest of the month’s best branded content.
Etihad Airways: Reimagine
In April, Etihad Airways released 360-degree trailer for Reimagine, a virtual-reality film starring Nicole Kidman. The project is surprising—this is Etihad’s first video effort of note—but it fits the brand. The last time I flew Etihad, I was pretty sure that I’d find a small pile of gold if I checked enough empty overhead bins. So why not pay big bucks to release a virtual-reality film with Nicole Kidman at a time that guarantees tons of early-entrant press?
It’s hard to say whether the film will be good, or even what it’s about. But the trailer and early press is sure to get Etihad a lot of love, especially from influential early adopters.
NYU: Trip to Mars
The media usually depicts college admissions as a Hunger Games-style battle among ruthless teenagers. However, once acceptances go out, the power dynamics flip, and colleges have to woo accepted students into saying yes.
Right now, NYU is in that position with its accepted class of 2020—or as you’ll soon know them, “The kids smoking e-cigs outside that sketchy bar on Bleecker Street.” To win them over during the college’s admitted students day, NYU gave every student a cardboard VR device developed by the NYU Engineering school, taking them on a virtual tour of Mars.
Mark Skwarek, a professor in the university’s Integrated Digital Media Program, developed the device and experience, which allowed students to control a “Lunabot” as it paroles the rocky, red terrain. Personally, I’m impressed by the university’s ability to position itself in a tech-forward way. I went to Sarah Lawrence College, a local NYU rival, and I’m pretty sure my alma matter just realized that Twitter was a thing.
GE: Turbine Blog Post
Image via GE
As a rule, whenever a piece of branded content reaches the first page of Reddit for positive reasons, it earns a spot in this roundup. This month, GE Reports did it again with this blog post about an incredibly lightweight, powerful, and efficient turbine that racked up thousands of upvotes on Reddit. GE does great reporting on the innovation going on the company, giving the world’s growing community of science nerds plenty of reasons to love the brand.
(Full disclosure: GE is a Contently client.)
HelloFlo: “A Visit From Aunt Flo”
Last week, Erin Nelson wrote an excellent profile of brands that are confronting dated taboos about periods with marketing and creative content. The best content comes from HelloFlo, the feminine-products startup that’s really good at creating hilarious, honest videos about getting your period. This two-minute romp throws shade at a bizarre euphemism (“Aunt Flo”), and hits almost every joke.
Silicon Valley: Fake News
In March, Google released a frills-free version of Facebook Instant Articles with Google Posts. Just as Instant Articles publish directly to the Facebook feed, Google Posts publish directly to Google search results. This sounds like a BIG DEAL, but no one really seemed to notice until fake posts and videos for the show Silicon Valley started showing up in search results.
Image via Digiday
Ultimately, the marketers at HBO did something that no publisher has been able to do of late: beat BuzzFeed to a new platform. Somewhere out there, Jonah Peretti is plotting his revenge.
Anything I missed? Suggestions for next month? Find me on Twitter @joelazauskas or reach me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.Image by Contently