Marketing in another world

03/06/21

Diane Hall

There can’t be many places where advertisers have not dared to tread. From the sides of buses to billboards at roundabouts, from manhole covers to people’s body parts…almost everything, at some time, somewhere, will have borne the name and logo of a company.


The problem is, whilst the more unusual places to advertise many make people stop and look, most of the advertising we see around us is easy to tune out, if we notice it at all. Branding and advertising do work when measured overall, but it takes time and many ‘glimpses’ to make people recognise your message.


One area that hasn’t yet been flooded or overrun with advertising, but which is prime space, is the virtual world.

We may have saturated planet Earth, but not alternative realities.


Now, in some virtual reality games, there are things that mirror some of the marketing we see in the real world (in-game advertising). For example, you may see the golden arches of a McDonald’s branch towering above buildings in a game scene, or an advert for Nike trainers on a billboard.


Whilst, at the moment, it may be just the big brands getting in on the action, there’s absolutely no reason why small and medium-sized businesses can’t do the same. It makes sense to do this now, whilst competition for virtual advertising space is low.


Virtual reality could eventually become a staple in the marketing strategies of businesses. Most of this activity, currently, involves bringing VR elements to real-world advertising techniques, not the other way around, such as in-game advertising mentioned above.


Examples of virtual world advertising include:

  • Valentino created a 3D villa in one virtual reality scenario

  • Burberry created a virtual replica of its Tokyo flagship store in another

  • Skincare brand SK-II created its own hyper-realistic branded world in a virtual hangout, for customers to access, similar to that of the popular game SimCity

In-game advertising is not a new thing. Creating virtual worlds specifically for advertising purposes is, potentially, a marketing technique that could balloon in years to come, but it’s taking its time to grow. Some brands are purposely holding back; the high cost of creating these realistic pixelated places isn’t likely to bring a huge return on the investment right now, given that it’s such a new technology for the general public to turn to.


It does seem to be where brands are heading, however, simply because the whole (virtual) landscape is up for grabs.

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