It’s not just gamers that have been inspired by this summer’s Pokemon Go phenomenon. The fact that millions of people worldwide are now familiar with the concept of stepping into another reality via their smartphone has added extra impetus to the growth of 360 degree mobile advertising.

The two aren’t quite the same; Pokemon Go uses Augmented Reality (AR) – a technology that facilitates an overlay onto the real world through the content in a smartphone. 360 degree mobile advertising relies more on Virtual Reality (VR) – the viewing of mobile video content from a variety of angles by tilting the phone, dragging the mouse, or wearing a VR headset.

But the fact that both technologies offer a richer, more interactive viewing experience means that the Pokemon Go popularity has given a boost to the marketers and suppliers investing in the creation of immersive video ads for mobile. Now consumers have had a taste of how much fun it can be to dive right into video content, it is likely they will be more receptive to ads that offer them this. And the potential for consumers’ engagement with brands that offer this degree of interactivity seems high.

Over the past year, brands including Samsung, Nestle and AT&T have experimented with these ads, following the early adopters from the hotel industry that had already used 360 degree ads to give consumers a really good look at places they could visit on their next vacation. Media owners, including Facebook, Twitter and USA Today have added the facility to host these types of immersive ads on their networks, conscious that this draws both users and advertisers.

Although there has been excitement in the marketing community for some time about the potential that VR offers advertisers, it is only very recently that technology has progressed to the degree that most smartphones can play 360 degree ads. It wasn’t too long ago that only very specialised devices would be able to play a VR ad. The latest language for web content, HTML5, supports interactive video, and an increasing number of smartphones now come built with the facilities to support all the elements of this.

Javascript Web GL is an application programming interface that facilitates 3D computer graphics and was designed to fit with HTML5. It has become integrated into most browsers over the past few years, and has essentially laid a framework that allows developers and designers to either incorporate 3D captured media (photo and video) or 3D graphics generated environments, and for devices to be able to support this.

We’re also exploring the potential for ads designed to be viewed through VR headsets. The potential this offers in terms of the video experience may offset the fact that consumers would need to access another piece of kit to watch it. Samsung’s Gear brand is showing considerable consumer uptake and it may well be that VR headsets will be a regular fixture in homes in a few years’ time. Deloitte Global estimates that 2.5m will have been sold during 2016.

The challenge for all of us who are in the business of translating these exciting developments into actual ads is how we create the 3D scenario so that it fits the brief and stays fascinating for users. We must resist the temptation of using the technology just for the novelty of it, and instead use it to honestly improve people’s interaction with brands or even their daily lives.

In simple terms this can be about giving the user an immersive experience of the service/product – i.e the inside of a car, a hotel resort or even a house they want to buy. But there is also the potential to allow the user to walk through a store or even talk to other people watching the ad in real time.

The possibilities are huge and we’re only really at the experimental stage. We’ve landed on this VR 360 planet so rich in resources, and are venturing out in small groups, blazing our own paths. With the technology advancing so quickly, it’s becoming an exuberant race to stay ahead. This is the challenge that makes the space so exciting.

One thing’s for sure – this marks a sea change in the creation of mobile advertising and it’s one you’re going to be hearing a lot more about.

Miles Lukas

Miles Lukas


Creative Director, AdMaxim.