Our 3 Key Takeaways from SXSW Conference & Festivals

Mar 19, 2017 - min read min read

SXSW in Austin, Texas is by far the coolest conference that celebrates the convergence of the interactive, film, and music industries. It comes as no surprise that VR was a guest of honor for the occasion. VR experts from around the world clustered together at the altar of all things innovative, and this is what they had to say:

1. VR is still considered to be the next big computing platform

VR has been doing pretty well for itself in the past year, though its spot on the Gartner Hype Curve is slightly dwindling. It’s no cause for worry though, as it brings us one step closer to our ultimate destination: the plateau of productivity. It is the final step of the typical hype cycle every technology goes through.

It starts off with an innovation trigger, fueled by early proof-of-concepts, which leads right into a peak of inflated expectations, where we see a lot of success stories but no general buy-in. Next up is the trough of disillusionment, where some implementations fail to deliver. At this point, it is of vital importance that technology providers improve their products and that content creators keep experimenting with how they tell stories. That way, we keep early adopters happy. Which brings us to the slope of enlightenment, where added benefits become clear and general buy-in is just around the corner. Lastly, we reach the plateau of productivity, also known as the sweet spot. It’s one hell of a crazy ride.

At this point in the game, VR needs to prove its merit to the general public, and just getting people to watch things in VR isn’t going to cut it. We need to go deeper. Brands who wish to be successful in VR have to create engagement with their target groups. PlayStation VR, for example, is really killing it with over 915,000 units sold since their launch in October. This stage in the growth of VR maturity is crucial, and we’re expecting to see the classic thinning of the herd. The companies that survive the next 12 to 18 months are those who will be successful in the long run.

2. We need quality content to make VR more accessible and engaging

It’s taken some time but VR hardware is ready for action, truly. Sure, there’s room for improvement, because isn’t there always, but we’re at a pretty solid level already. Slightly lagging behind this hardware component, however, is the content we need to make VR more accessible and engaging. We have the processing power and are rapidly improving file formats, so now is the time to focus on that high-quality storytelling to get the general public engaged with VR.

There’s no Bible for VR storytelling, no best practices or official guidelines. It’s up to the VR community to keep experimenting with storytelling guidelines and best practices. We need to keep the cameras rolling and unite strong allies like video game companies and film studios to bring more emotion into VR. The beauty of working with a cutting-edge technology is that all parties have to collaborate to create their own rulebook.


3. Brands are leading the way in the evolution of VR

Native advertising has been growing as an industry in its own right for the last couple of years. Advertisers are discovering that their stories can be told in VR in more immersive and integrated ways than they ever deemed possible. Brands are the driving force behind today’s most innovative VR content, but as an agency, we’re still faced with one major hurdle: to make the brands understand the technology and its true potential.

Analytics are bound to become an essential part of VR, but CPM measurement is not feasible just yet. Brands want to see numbers, but there’s still so much to learn. Right now, we have to focus on the human connection. What if we could measure the engagement with our content? What if we offered users cinematic experiences rather than commercials? Ask yourself how you can turn your product into a lifestyle. Using VR, we can offer viewers a taste of that lifestyle and foster long-term, two-sided customer relationships.