Monday, March 14, 2016

The Race To Get Ads Into Virtual Reality

From The Verge:

Greet the Happy Meal, and plunge into the pit of despair
The first thing I see when I put on the HTC Vive virtual reality headset is a McDonald’s Happy Meal. It’s floating by itself against a blank white backdrop, gesturing toward me with its unmoving smile and a dog-like eagerness. With my two hands now firmly grasping the Vive’s mushroom-shaped motion controllers, I reach out for it, and prepare to let McDonald’s show me the capitalist dystopian side of VR, where the only limit is how many logos your eyes can take in at once. 
VR promises to change our relationship with what’s real, giving us otherwise impossible experiences and sensory escapades into the unknown. At SXSW 2016, McDonald’s is reminding us that VR will just as easily be a vehicle for corporate consumption. Like the early web being irreversibly branded by the banner ad, VR too will face its own unique struggle with the forces that wish to monetize and market with it. 
For context, I’m at the McDonald’s Loft — the fast food chain’s outpost here in Austin, located across the street from the Convention Center in the heart of Brandland. At SXSW, which is part music and film festival and part technology-fused marketing extravaganza, every brand under the sun wants to form more lasting relationships with consumers by helping them "have experiences." Usually those are in the form of trailers, food trucks, art installations, or "one-of-a-kind concert experiences" — basically, anything at all that may result in an organic social media post. 
McDonald’s VR demo isn’t in service of anything really, except as an opportunity to try the Vive, the most immersive and expensive of several soon-to-be-released headsets. There’s no fast food theme or any kind of internal narrative. I’m not battling the Hamburglar, or helping Grimace assist Ronald in getting kids to drink soda. Instead, with the headset firmly over my eyes, the Happy Meal teleports me into an ambiguous three-dimensional landscape covered with white canvas.....MORE