According to a recent entry on the Google Developers Blog, the company has begun experimenting with advertising formats suitable for placement inside of virtual reality experiences. Focusing on mobile VR platforms, the first idea they’ve shared for a native VR ad is a floating cube that can be optionally engaged with via a tap or gaze.
The program is being run by a team at Area 120, Google’s internal workshop for experimental projects, purportedly in response to the need for VR developers to generate revenue to fund their applications. Like it or not, advertising is an inevitable part of VR’s future, though Google claims that considerations are being made to avoid user and application disruption with “useful and non-intrusive” solutions.
Their first idea, shown in the GIF below, displays a small cube within the virtual environment of another app (which appears to be in a pause menu), which can be tapped or gazed at for a few seconds, opening a short, skippable video:
This is clearly an early take on what an ad in VR might look like, and leverages existing ad formats (like a flat video), which is a smart move because it doesn’t necessitate dedicating additional ad budget to for a new ad format. As VR grows, we expect to see such ads become more specialized for VR, but the present method is a good way to bridge the gap.
Google plans to test the format on Cardboard (Android and iOS), Daydream, and Gear VR platforms, and has created a form for developers to apply for the early access program, described as a ‘VR Ads plugin for Unity’, which suggests the ad system will be easily plugged into existing VR content, similar to mobile ad platforms that exist today.
However, there are countless examples of traditional mobile apps, particularly free-to-play, that are covered in obnoxious ads, and that kind of treatment simply isn’t acceptable in an immersive VR experience, so let’s hope developers tread much more carefully.