Literally Virtual!

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With sales of VR headsets projected to exceed six million units in 2016, and big names with big money signing on, Virtual Reality has officially become a thing. Not quite what people imagined in 1983, but pretty cool, actually.

And you don't have to drop six benjamins to get an occulus rift just to check it out. There are plenty of cardboard viewers to be had for a few bucks. Seriously. Download a VR app like Littlestar and enjoy. The trailer for the new Paranormal Activity flick as seen below and the Tiny Desk concert w/ Wilco are notable, imo.

A recent study conducted by YuMe and Neilsen confirmed what many could probably presume: people dig it.

Mike O'Donnell, SVP North American Sales for YuMe, adds: “With mobile virtual reality set to eclipse desktop, we’re excited to be one of the first in the industry to offer our clients the ability to immerse their customers in a highly interactive and engaging branded video experience."

Various aspects of viewer engagement all rise for VR, as compared to 360 video and old school 2D screens: overall engagement, emotional engagement, even behavioral engagement (which refers to all the head turning and body jerking that's so fun to observe and laugh at).

So, in light of all this wonderful consumer engagement... here's the big question:             How do advertisers get in on the virtual action?

1. Embrace the Environment. The whole thing about VR is the experience itself, it's captivating, bordering on overwhelming. Finding ways to guide viewers exploration, with audio and narrative and sneaky visual cues will help your brand stand out.

2. Be The Content. This is easier if you're a film trailer, or a travel brand, or an amusement park; the brand's content lends itself to this kind of immersion. If there's an opportunity for your brand to generate an experience, you'll find a willing audience. If not, better start coming up with ways to steal some of the spotlight. Think product placement. Consider a challenge: find the twelve cans of beer in this scene. But it'll probably be more likely to be pre-roll. Yawn.

3. Have an Idea. It's not about the ad, it's about the idea. Time to think bigger about the role your brand has in the consumer's life. Doubtful that cutaways from an engrossing experience to a message from our sponsor is going to sit well.

In a few short years, VR will probably be just another medium. For now, it's an opportunity for an enterprising brand to make a big splash. Without getting wet.

Watch as people experience the trailer for Paranormal Activities Reality Game.