Article originally appeared on Branding on Medium: Link.
Article originally appeared on Branding on Medium: Link.
So you’re excited about the possibilities virtual reality offers for marketing your brand, but you’re unsure how to get started and…
Article originally appeared on Branding on Medium: Link.
Coming out of the weekend, Team USA continues to have more 2016 medals (69) than any other country at the Summer Olympics in Rio. Here's what marketers need to know about the last 24 hours of the Olympics:
Medal Count: Team USA Leads, but Great Britain Surges
With nearly twice as many golds as the two countries tied for second (26 to China and Great Britain's 15), Team USA continues to dominate the Rio leaderboard. All told, the U.S. has 69 medals, with China coming in second at 45. But it's Great Britain who put on the best show this weekend, adding an astounding five golds and three silvers and vaulting up the chart. (SB Nation)
Here's the total medal leaderboard as it stood going into Monday:
United States: 69
Great Britain: 38
Usain Bolt Remains the Fastest Man Alive
Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt is still the fastest man on the planet. Bolt defeated American Justin Gatlin Sunday in the 100-meter dash Olympic final, marking the famed sprinter's third consecutive 100-meter gold since 2008. (BBC)
Simone Biles Continues Her World Domination With Third Gold Medal
U.S. gymnast Simone Biles continued her winning streak on Sunday, earning her third gold medal—this time for the vault, her signature event. Biles is the first American woman to get the gold on vault. (The Huffington Post)
Gabby Douglas Calls Social Media Critics 'Hurtful' After Ending Olympic Career
U.S. gymnast Gabby Douglas teared up after finishing her last routine of her Olympic career. Douglas faced much criticism on social media during the Rio games, with negative comments ranging from her appearance to her performance. "I tried to stay off the internet because there's just so much negativity," she said. "Either it was about my hair or my hand not over my heart [on the medal podium] or I look depressed. … It was hurtful. It was hurtful. It was. It's been kind of a lot to deal with," she said. (ESPN)
U.S. Men's Basketball Hangs on, Defeating France
Sunday U.S. men's basketball defeated France in a nail-biting 100-97 showdown. The U.S. is now the top seed in Group A, with a 5-0 record. (USA Today)
Russia's Darya Klishina Has Ban Overturned
Russian Darya Klishina will compete in the women's long jump Tuesday after winning an appeal of her Olympic ban. Klishina was initially stopped after allegations Russia ran a state-sponsored doping program. (BBC)
NBC's Tape-Delayed Olympic Coverage Not Keeping Up With Times
NBC viewers are frustrated by recorded and delayed Olympic games broadcasts. Rio is just one hour ahead of the Eastern time zone, and some are wondering why they have to wait until night time to watch afternoon competitions. (The Seattle Times)
Heineken Says Olympic Sponsorship is Too Crowded to Be Valuable
Heineken, the world's third-largest brewer, told the International Olympic Committee it doesn't differentiate sponsorships enough to let bigger sponsors stand out. "You can't see the difference between a global sponsor and a local one," said Hans Erik Tuijt, head of global sponsorship at Heineken. (New Zealand Herald)
Getty Uses Underwater Robots and VR to Create Images That Stand Out
Getty is using a plethora of camera technology to shoot different angles at the Rio Olympics. The stock photo agency is using underwater cameras for swimming coverage, overhead robot cameras to cover gymnastics and 360-degree cameras for immersive photography to be used for virtual reality. (Recode)
Amid Ad Backlash, Innovation Proves Its Worth
Social media tracking firm Networked Insights looked at 81,000 consumer conversations about the Olympics online and found that 11 percent focused on complaints that broadcasts had too many commercials. From 2012 to 2016, consumers have less of a tolerance for invasive advertising, and brands are focusing more on precise ad targeting and cross-platform capabilities. (MediaPost)
Article originally appeared on Adweek Advertising & Branding: Link.
Bali, Indonesia—In it's inaugural at the Clio Awards and the first time brand executives have judged work as part of the overall awards program, the Innovation & Integrated jury convened over the course of three days in Bali to weigh more than 600 submissions in the category.
The jury consisted of chair Steve Vranakis, executive creative director, Google Creative Lab, U.K.; Christine Dilandro, svp, head of media and integrated marketing, Citi; Juhi Kalia, head of Creative Shop, India and Indonesia; Ann Rubin, vp, brand content and global creative, IBM, USA; Kathleen Hall, corporate vp, global advertising, Microsoft, USA; Lars Terling, global head of a product business unit and director of FM/FMX product line, Volvo, Sweden; and Peter Carter, managing director of brand building integrated communications, Procter & Gamble, USA.
While chiefly charged with focusing on the creativity and originality of submissions, the theme of how return on investment, digital disruption and technology are shaping advertising and product development also served as an inevitable backdrop to the jury discussions.
After completing their deliberations, the jurors sat down with Adweek to discuss the creative trends that came through the craft they considered and the debate about both the merits and shortcomings of the ideas behind the work.
Adweek: What were the most important marketing themes to come out of this experience?
Carter: Whatever the hot social issues of the day are, those always came through, whether it was bullying or racism or Syrian refugees. It was advertising as a microcosm of what's happening in the world.
Dilandro: There were also brands working on innovations that could very well be helpful in the future. There was a greater good element and that dimensions what they [brands and advertisers] stand for in terms of doing meaningful work.
Vranakis: The Innovation [panel] had a huge element of social impact. Brands very much honed in on a cause that was aligned to their core beliefs and values and really went to town.Reaching their target through the shared values that the brand and their audience hold dear seemed to result in fresh and surprising work and a winning formula.
Where the themes of innovation and integration strongly represented in the work submitted?
Hall: I think collectively we all agree that the term integration is a bit antiquated. It used to be TV, outdoor print and you had integrated. Now it seems to be mushy. What defines an integrated campaign has become nebulous.
Rubin: And I think the submissions weren't very clear about what their integrated elements were. Is PR an element? Is it a collection of elements? Or is owned platforms, or being on your own social channels, a tactic of integration?
Dilandro: I think the power of digital is evolving how we might want to look at the label of integration because it can appear through a digital channel only, but still have an array of activation points.
What, if anything, surprised you?
Rubin: That we were not immensely impressed overall with the quality of the work.
What was missing?
Carter: The real breakthrough idea; I didn't see that dynamic twist. Yes, there were incremental differences. But that game changing experience didn't happen for us this year.
Vranakis: I was continuously surprised by the smaller more regional brands who are doing so much with so little. They're really tapping into genuine insights that result in work that is more meaningful and beneficial to their audience. So much of the best work gave back, added value to people's lives and was empathetic to the hardships they endure.
Do you feel that strong ideas really came through the work you saw or did the rush to innovate and integrate get in the way?
Kalia: Usually, over the last couple of years the tech just takes over and the storytelling, impact and the heart of the idea kind of take a back seat. But I think we saw a really nice balance here. There was that tech innovation, but also a lot of really good ideas, building craft and good writing and the great stock and trade of what we do.
Were elements like mobile, social, AR and VR and even, perhaps, gamification and geo location adequately harnessed by the work you saw?
Carter: Yes, but it's lead by the idea. Too often we're looking for the latest shiny object and everybody rushes to do that. I think that if you start with the idea first, it doesn't matter if it's executed in radio or outdoor or something that's older media. If it's done well, and it's the best way to bring the idea to light, that's a good integration. So we looked at the whiz bang tech, but only in the service of the idea.
Kalia: Yes, VR is not an idea.
Rubin: There we a lot of uses of VR, not not a lot of innovative uses of VR.
With this judging experience as a backdrop, how is technology shaping the definition and direction of creativity?
Hall: I don't think technology is shaping the direction, I think creativity is still the lead. It's how does and great creativity leverage the technology to make an idea more resonant and meaningful.
Kalia: I think it is changing, especially in this part of the world in Asia with VR and data and creative targeting. But it's really how you creatively leap from that.
Voting jar loose any brand marketing epiphanies?
Hall: For me it was the importance of end-to-end execution and connecting the idea from top to bottom has to be there to really have that bang happen.
Rubin: It's also about idea plus execution because a lot of these submission were great ideas not executed well or they were amazing creative executions but the idea wasn't so good. So we all know this logically, but when you look at these cases it really drives home that you have to have it all, big idea, amazing execution and end-to-end strategy.
Were there any challenges to judging creative from the client perspective?
Carter: If anything I think we ended up being more practical, questioning whether or not a really good creative idea was ultimately in service of the brand. Did it work? Is it scalable? What was the impact? I don't think the Clios should become effectiveness awards, I just think that there should be some focus on the result. That's important to marketers.
Woven into innovation and integration, were you satisfied with the storytelling elements in the work you saw?
Terling: We saw a lot of great story telling but nothing that was amazing or mind blowing, not to that level. What was missing was that truly unexpected work.
Carter: I think the things that really had great storytelling we rewarded. But to go through 600 examples there was a lot of gimmicks that we saw instead of really soulful communications.
What were the central hallmarks of the work that took top honors?
Vranakis: We were tasked with awarding creativity and originality. We all know that creativity is a sum of the parts. Strategy, idea, execution, iteration and impact. When I say impact, not necessarily just the results but the overall social, cultural even economic and educational impact that the creativity delivers. So real substance.
Rubin: I think the work that felt less stunty and and more of an ongoing piece of communication that can really connect with and audience and resonate on a few different levels rather than here's just just a stunt to prove something out.
Hall: Also an idea with depth and legs, that doesn't dilute as it expands.
—The Clio Awards will be announcing this year's gold, silver and bronze winners on clios.com on Sept. 12. The Grand Clio winners will be revealed at the Clio Awards ceremony in New York on Sept. 28.
Article originally appeared on Adweek Advertising & Branding: Link.
Malls are lumbering, claustrophobic dinosaurs, while anchor stores like Macy's and Kohl's are shuttering hundreds of locations. Fresh Direct and Peapod make it easier and quicker to stock a cupboard than wading through the jam-packed neighborhood Kroger, and Amazon and eBay and Overstock sell, well, everything.
Who needs retail anymore?
In fact, 71 percent of U.S. consumers say they still prefer to buy from physical stores even if the same products are available online, according to a recent TimeTrade survey, which also found that 85 percent like to shop in stores because they say they want to "touch and feel" items before buying them.
Online shopping accounts for only about 9 percent of total consumer retail spending, according to the most recent quarterly figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. But make no mistake—everyone from retail behemoths to specialty boutiques is feeling the pressure to adapt more seamlessly to the digital world, to bring in that all-important foot traffic and to deliver an experience that consumers can get nowhere else.
That's a tall order at a time when the average head of household in the U.S. has cut his or her number of shopping destinations by 30 percent since 2010, WPP CEO Martin Sorrell said at the recent Shopper Marketing Summit in New York. The power is squarely in the hands of the consumer, and building brands has never been tougher, he noted.
High-tech bells and whistles (get ready for humanoid robots as sales associates) are only part of the equation, analysts say, and if retailers have their eye only on a consumer's wallet, they're more likely to falter. "Shoppers' most valuable asset isn't their dollars, it's their attention," says Christopher Brace, CEO at Syntegrate Consulting in New York. "Every move should be vetted against its ability to capture the shopper's attention. If it can't, then its relevancy significantly lessens."
Here, a look at the tactics, programs and concepts that retailers hope will do just that: endear them to mercurial, demanding shoppers who use their five senses as often as their smartphones when it comes to buying stuff.
Grocers go BOHO
There's no tattoo parlor, as had been rumored before the first 365 by Whole Foods Market opened recently in the Los Angeles hipster haven of Silver Lake. But there is a self-serve teaBOT that will brew a customized cup in 30 seconds, iPads for ordering to-go, a dog-hitching station out front, a coffee shop with beer and wine, organic fruit, responsibly harvested seafood and antibiotic-free meat.
The concept launched as a lower-priced, no-frills version of the chain and as an alternative shopping experience for millennials, looking like a sleek cross between Costco, Trader Joe's and an Apple store. It's an attempt by the parent company to reverse its sagging sales with a smaller, more streamlined, warehouse-like footprint. The Silver Lake store is one of more than a dozen West Coast locations in the works.
It comes as little surprise that Whole Foods—derisively nicknamed "Whole Paycheck"—would attempt to capture this coveted younger demo. Nearly every change in-store—from food to fashion to home goods—is going after millennials, a group that's 80 million cost-conscious digital natives strong. They are projected to spend $65 billion on consumer packaged goods over the next decade, according to a recent study by FutureCast and Barkley, which also revealed that less than half (about 42 percent) of millennials shop at local and chain grocery stores, spelling opportunity for retailers.
Enter 365, with its attached vegan restaurant (New York's by Chloe), curated selection of brands and speedy Apple Pay-equipped checkout. The outposts could eventually house bike shops and music stores.
Analysts have questioned whether 365 threatens to cannibalize the larger Whole Foods stores, but others think the offshoot is a smart strategy. "If it's a less expensive, more elevated shopping experience, why on Earth would millennials be the only ones who'd want that?" says Brace. "If they can make it a success, it won't be for the reasons they think; it'll be because it has broader appeal."
Picture this: the rise of VR
Not only does it seem like a Herculean task to remodel that crummy kitchen, it's tough for most people to visualize how the re-do, if successful, will even turn out.
Home improvement chain Lowe's identified the problem and discovered that consumers were saying "Oh, just forget it" to the tune of some $4 billion in lost revenue per year. That's where virtual reality comes in, with a program called Holoroom that lets customers become DIY masters without ever knocking down a wall.
"We wanted to give people a visceral view of what their project could look like," says Scott Susskind, partner and CTO of SciFutures, which developed the concept for Lowe's Innovation Labs. "The goal was to reduce the barrier and the fear for the consumer."
Holoroom, which has been dubbed "Minecraft for Moms," uses a tablet app to start the process of building that dream room—with Lowe's products, of course. The next step equips consumers in-store with an Oculus Rift headset so he or she can see the results as if they were standing in the middle of their reconstructed space. They can tweak the design and export everything to YouTube 360 and view anytime via Google Cardboard.
The technology, which has been a hit in the 30 Lowe's locations that have installed it, underscores why analysts have dubbed VR the future of retail. Brands that have embraced the technology include The North Face, Toms and Verizon. Also, Samsung and AT&T recently partnered on an activation that had consumers taking a virtual Carnival Cruise via Samsung Gear VR headsets. VR is a feature of the new Samsung flagship store in New York.
Next up: Mobile-enhanced VR experiences and v-commerce (Ikea and luxury retailer The Line have already experimented) once more consumers have their own VR headsets.
In an Orchard Supply Hardware store in Palo Alto, Calif., an OSHbot will find you some nails or check the sale price of a hammock. Touchscreen mirrors at a Bay Area Neiman Marcus give you a 360-degree view of the outfit you're trying on and let you share your new look with friends. Smart dressing rooms at Rebecca Minkoff's fashion-forward SoHo boutique in New York can take care of everything from your Champagne order to your vacation wardrobe.
Those are just some examples of what's known as mixed reality, a trend in retail that's blurring the line between ecommerce, augmented reality and brick-and-mortar stores. Some of the executions have merely been tests—among them, shoppable windows at Kate Spade and smart mirrors at Bloomingdale's and Ralph Lauren—but many experts see them as the wave of the future.
"We want to create experiences where we all look back and say, 'How did we ever get along without these?'" says Scott Clear, chief design and innovation officer at RKS in Los Angeles, which worked on the Neiman Marcus mirrors for client Corning. "We'll think that 2015 was the Dark Ages."
Out of necessity, retailers are focusing on solving problems for consumers, often by using the latest technology and the customization and personalization it allows. Cognitive computing will mean that stores recognize a customer much as a shopping site does and make suggestions accordingly.
"Shoppers are looking for ways to make their lives substantially simpler," notes Wendy Liebmann, CEO and chief shopper at WSL Strategic Retail. "Retail is trying to meet specific needs with a mix of both digital and physical solutions."
That will involve what SciFutures refers to as "lower-friction" shopping, meaning that nobody will have to stand in line to pay. Programs are in the works for client Visa, for example, that will enable customers to make their purchases in-store by simply walking under or past designated hot spots.
"The goal is to make the tech as invisible as possible and not distract consumers with the gadgetry," Clear said. "They say what they want, and the tech makes it happen."
I spy with my little I (beacon)
Over the next four years, nearly 1.6 billion coupons will be delivered annually to consumers via beacon technology, whether it's Apple's branded iBeacon or other Bluetooth-enabled trackers, according to Juniper Research. That's up from about 11 million last year, when the proximity-based marketing tactic just started to catch fire.
Such promotions, akin to personal flash sales, mean that shoppers at Target, Lord & Taylor, Macy's, H&M or other beacon-equipped retailers could get an offer on their smartphones customized to their interests, shopping history and physical location. Once they opt-in, that is. And that could be a problem for the technology considering that a recent study by Horizon Media found 72 percent of those interviewed signaled they were "alarmed" by how much of their information is already available to retailers. (At the same time, 61 percent said they were "more than willing" to share their real-time whereabouts in exchange for personalized rewards.)
"The upshot from consumers was: If I get a deal or some exclusive access to a sale that someone else isn't getting, maybe it's worth it to me," says Kirk Olson, vp of Horizon Media's Trendsights. "Plenty of companies are tracking me and not offering me anything."
Two-thirds of those in the study said beacons offering special discounts would "definitely influence my buying decisions," and retailers have reported significantly higher redemption rates with beacons than coupons delivered by other means.
For consumers accustomed to online recommendation engines, beacons are "a way to help navigate choice and find the most relevant items," Olson adds, begetting time-sensitive offers that can spur impulse purchases.
About one-third of the top 100 retailers have already used beacons, with Business Insider projecting that 85 percent will deploy them by year's end, potentially causing digital gridlock, says Syntegrate Consulting's Brace. "This is one-way, data-pushing technology. At some point, the shopper could be so overwhelmed by information that it'll all end up being noise."
Throwbacks and crossovers
High-tech may be all the rage in shopper marketing, but so is high-touch, with retailers emphasizing one-on-one service, community building and unique products. One might think of it as the retail version of farm to table. They'll never be big-box chains, in size or spirit—and that's the point.
Good Beer in New York's East Village features domestic microbrews and imports along with gathering spots where customers can chat with knowledgeable employees and brewmasters. The old-school Stanley's Pharmacy and juice bar, also in New York, prides itself on the personal approach as well, while Gratus in Beverly Hills, Calif., will order your lunch and stock your favorite drink, even if you're not a celebrity.
"It seems counter to every tech trend where you order online and it's delivered to your door in an hour," says Horizon Media's Olson. "But we as consumers continue to crave that human connection."
People also want an environment, something they can't get online, giving rise to a growing number of switch-hitters, brands moving from strictly digital to traditional, physical retail locations. Warby Parker, Fabletics, Bonobos, Athleta, Birchbox and other digital companies have opened a smattering of brick-and-mortar locations in high-traffic areas "geared toward marketing and messaging as much as sales," notes Mary Brett Whitfield, svp at Kantar Retail. "They're meant to be physical touch points."
Amazon caused a stir with its first bookstore, opened late last year in Seattle, and the online retail behemoth's still-unconfirmed plans for a national rollout may be as much about showcasing electronics as current best-sellers. (A second store opens in San Diego this summer.) It comes at a time when big retailers like Kohl's, Sears and JCPenney are beefing up their online presence and so-called "borderless shopping" as they shutter money-losing physical locations.
The shopping site Tictail Market, which has opened pop-up shops around the holidays, now has a permanent store on New York's Lower East Side that showcases the work of fashion, jewelry and home decor designers from around the world. Its point of difference: descriptions of the work and artist with every item.
"Retailers that can figure this out—telling the brand stories—will be filling a big white space," says Brace. "Millennials are especially influencing this area because they don't buy things, they buy stories."
This story first appeared in the June 20, 2016 issue of Adweek magazine.
Click here to subscribe.
Article originally appeared on Adweek Advertising & Branding: Link.
One evening last December, 400 men and women in tuxedos and gowns met at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to take a trip to a small village in Ethiopia. Few of them had ever been to the East African country before, and while they were scheduled to depart that evening, nobody had a plane ticket. In fact, they wouldn't need one for the nine-minute virtual visit they were about to make.
The group was gathering at the Met for an annual black-tie fundraising banquet benefiting Charity: Water, a New York nonprofit that builds wells around the world, providing access to clean water for thousands of people every year.
After dinner and before the fundraising portion of the evening began, volunteers from the organization passed around Samsung Gear VR headsets so attendees could watch a virtual reality movie documenting a week in the life of a 13-year-old girl, Selam, and her family who were getting clean water for the first time. The video begins with the girl—whose mother died a year earlier—collecting water she fears is full of leeches and diseases. It ends with a team of workers arriving by truck to drill the well before water gushes into the hot desert sky.
"You could hear a pin drop," said the filmmaker, Jamie Pent, from Charity: Water. "I was wandering around watching people watch it. There was this one guy who just flew out of his seat, and he was just like, 'Honey, honey, turn around!' And he was talking out loud [to his wife]. And there were others who would reach out for their spouse and would grab their hands, and I would know where they were in the film because all of a sudden there would be cheering when they hit water. I saw people take [their headsets] off with tears in their eyes."
Later that night, donors committed to giving $2.4 million, much more than Charity: Water had expected. That was the first time but not the last, Pent said, that the film led to higher-than-expected donations. During a visit to Charity: Water's office, one donor, who had already committed to giving $60,000, watched the film and was so moved by the story that he gave $400,000 instead.
Thousands of people have now seen the film using Samsung Gear VR headsets, Pent said, with another 1.5 million watching it on Facebook on mobile and desktop devices, and around 30,000 more viewing it on YouTube (you can watch it below). According to Pent, letting people be virtually present makes all the difference.
"It's so hard to understand the water crisis when you just hear statistics, and it's about individuals who are going through this just because of where they live," Pent said. "Any one of us could have been born there, and we weren't. But we have the ability to help."
VR works when it comes to causes
Charity: Water is just one of a number of organizations that have become champions of virtual reality for bringing awareness to causes worldwide, evoking empathy through immersive experiences. Last year, Matter Unlimited VR traveled with former President Bill Clinton and his daughter, Chelsea Clinton, to document the Clinton Global Initiative's work in places like Tanzania and Kenya. According to Matter, the film has amassed 150 million media impressions and 1.2 million Facebook views.
Yet another film, from the international education nonprofit Pencils of Promise, transported its audience into a small classroom in Ghana to show how education is transforming the rural community of Tokologo. In the 90-second film, viewers get to see what it's like to learn while sitting under a mango tree or in a dilapidated building. The viewers then see students use the new building thanks to Pencils of Promise. The film, which debuted at the Pencils of Promise 2015 gala, helped the organization raise $1.9 million, and officials say it's continued to be an important tool for securing new donors and corporate partners.
While films such as these can be time-intensive and sometimes costly to make (Charity: Water's film cost around $100,000), groups that have used VR to support fundraising efforts say the emerging medium has paid off.
"Our perspective is this area is only getting more interesting for causes, and the companies and organizations investing in it will see awesome returns," said Emily Hawkins, director of partnerships and business development at CrowdRise, a Detroit-based tech company co-founded by actor Edward Norton and focused on fundraising through crowdsourcing. "The more you can put the donor or activist in the story in a powerful way, the greater the impact is going to be. And VR is just an exciting way to do that."
Last fall during a Giving Tuesday campaign, CrowdRise used augmented reality to build a virtual "Giving Tower"—which served as a visual representation of the impact of giving—that grew taller as people around the world donated to various causes. Viewers could aim their smartphone cameras at a flat object to see the tower appear in augmented reality. And as it grew, the tower unlocked virtual reality films for viewers to watch to better understand causes around the world. By the end, CrowdRise had helped raise more than $6 million for various nonprofits.
Helping nonprofits create VR films
Having seen the potential impact of VR, other companies are creating new ways to help nonprofits make films. Even Oculus VR—a high-end virtual reality platform owned by Facebook—wants in. In mid-May, the company announced a new initiative called VR for Good. Along with a pilot program aimed at getting high school students interested in making VR films by documenting their communities, Oculus is launching a similar program for nonprofits called 360 Bootcamp for Nonprofits.
The program starts this summer and will pair 10 "rising filmmakers" with 10 nonprofits to create films highlighting various social causes, according to Facebook, which says it will supply the equipment, travel budget, mentorship and additional editing support along the way. The films that come out of the boot camp will debut during the Sundance Film Festival in 2017.
To illustrate the power of the medium and the need for more VR films for causes, the company cited Clouds Over Sidra, a 360-degree documentary about a young Syrian girl named Sidra who lives with her family in a refugee camp in Jordan. The film, shot by Gabo Arora, helped UNICEF raise $3.8 billion, almost twice what the U.N. program had projected.
'Closer to the story'
While nonprofits are teaming up with a number of different companies to produce such films, one of the most prominent in the space is RYOT, a 4-year-old startup that was acquired by AOL last month for an undisclosed price. The company, co-founded by Bryn Mooser and Molly Swenson, films 360-degree videos around the world. RYOT has already received a number of accolades, including an Academy Award nomination for Body Team 12, a 360-degree documentary filmed in Liberia during the 2014 Ebola crisis.
RYOT—which shot the movie for Pencils of Promise—has also worked with brands on other cause-focused films, partnering with Pepsi for a campaign to drive awareness about sustainability and with Walgreens for a piece about a vitamin enrichment program in Uganda. The company is also in the middle of a multipart series for Save the Children. And, just last week, it posted a 360-degree video shot in the Arctic to Facebook that lets viewers "play with" polar bears while learning from Greenpeace about the dangers of global warming.
Every RYOT film is attached to some sort of call-to-action, allowing viewers to not just passively consume, but to take part in causes they're inspired by.
Of course, VR is still a relatively niche medium. While Google has distributed more than 5 million of its Google Cardboard headsets, few people have tried more pricey gear like the $600 Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive. And while Samsung Gear is much less expensive at $100, it also requires an Android phone, which many people don't have. (Apple has yet to release any sort of hardware for VR.)
While virtual reality is still in its infancy, both in terms of shooting and viewing, news outlets, brands and nonprofits are experimenting with ways to grow it. RYOT is expanding by combining resources with The Huffington Post, also owned by AOL. Google is building a headset that's bound to be more immersive than a piece of cardboard. And Charity: Water, proud of its first film, is considering making more.
After Charity: Water's film was finished, Pent said founder Scott Harrison returned to the Ethiopian village to give Selam and her family a chance to see the VR film firsthand. After finishing the film, she took off the headset and beamed.
"She took it off and simply said, 'Beautiful,'" Pent said.
Read more about how creativity and tech are fueling today's nonprofits in Adweek's Cause Marketing Report.
Article originally appeared on Adweek Advertising & Branding: Link.