Though consumer virtual reality R&D has been healthily reignited, the challenge of marketing these new devices begins to take rise. Samsung is first to take a stab at selling VR to everyday consumers, and that means somehow explaining what VR is to the masses, without going door to door to get people to try on a headset. Two new ads from Samsung are taking that first marketing step for Gear VR—how’d they do?
Galaxy Family – You Need To See This (ft. Gear VR)
The first ad, which reportedly aired during NFL playoffs, doesn’t feature Gear VR exclusively, but does show it integrated as part of Samsung’s family of devices and uses it as a tantalizing period at the end of the ad. “You need to see this…”
One interesting thing to note is how the demographic changes when the ad shifts to Gear VR from the other devices. Most of the commercial centers around 18-35 ‘lifestyle ‘ moments, but the Gear VR segment features a distinctly younger-than-18 crowd.
In the world of advertising, casting of actors usually mirrors the target audience. This could indicate that Samsung sees Gear VR as something for a younger generation, though that seems at ends with the ‘Innovator Edition’ status of Gear VR, which Samsung says denotes the device as being for “developers, early adopters, and [VR] enthusiasts.” Early on we pointed out that it would be difficult for Samsung to maintain the blurry line it’s drawn between ‘consumer ready’ and ‘beta’—this ad may be the first sign of such growing pains. Most likely, the casting choice in the Gear VR segment represents the aim of the content currently available on Gear VR (mostly games).
This ad doesn’t do a good job of explaining what VR is (well, it doesn’t really try), but it definitely makes an attempt to tantalize. For those who haven’t tried VR, I’m sure it’ll draw some curiosity. For those that have tried VR from the former epoch, I think skepticism will be the foremost reaction.
Gear VR Demonstration Ad
The next ad, which wouldn’t appear on TV at the length shown below (but may be chopped up for that purpose), indeed does its darndest to convey what it really looks like inside the headset.
The ad uses actual content from the Gear VR headset which is a smart choice, though, curiously, no games are featured. Instead, the ad focuses on 360 video—clips from a helicopter over a city, elephants roaming in their natural habitat, a CGI Pacific Rim experience, and a moment from Cirque du Soleil.
I think this ad does a fair job of demonstrating what people can expect inside Gear VR, though I’m concerned that some viewers may come away with an unrealistic expectation of the field of view. It also doesn’t highlight the gaming aspect, which would probably appeal to a wider audience. But then again, the platform still lacks a proper system for purchasing apps, meaning most of what’s available at this point are demos.
Again take note of the absence of definition when it comes to ‘Innovator Edition’. It’s included as part of the device’s name, but if Samsung doesn’t make clear what it means, they won’t be able to use that moniker as an excuse for buyers that feel the product is more beta than complete.
Compare and Contrast: Virtual Boy
Just for fun, let’s take a little trip down memory lane to see how ‘VR’ was marketed back in the day of Nintendo’s infamous Virtual Boy (1995).
Conceptually, this is actually a pretty cool commercial, but given that Virtual Boy wasn’t really virtual reality by any reasonable definition, the ad relied heavily on a buzzword that the product couldn’t deliver. Samsung has so far avoided that trap; we’ll have to wait and see if others are willing to tread with the same care.