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Discovery seeks 'elegant' VR ads

News, 10 March 2017

LAS VEGAS: Brands have an opportunity to make sure the nascent ad market for virtual reality avoids the profound issues facing other forms of digital marketing, a leading executive at Discovery Communication has argued.

Rebecca Howard, SVP/Emerging Platforms and Partnerships at Discovery, a media group focused on non-fiction content in areas like the natural world and science, discussed this topic during the Chief Digital Officer Global Forum held at CES 2017.

With its virtual-reality app already boasting over three million downloads, Discovery has been a successful early adopter of this technology – and Howard believes the development of ad formats for this channel is undoubtedly on the horizon.

"Ad serving is going to happen, and we have to make sure we are able to deliver that in the most elegant way that we can," she said. (For more details, read Warc's exclusive report: Discovery Communications' real success with virtual reality.)

Given that virtual-reality advertising is in its infancy, there is considerable potential to learn from existing sectors of the digital ecosystem which, as Howard observed, are bedevilled by problems like clutter, ad blocking and bot fraud.

"It's such a great environment," she said of the current VR experience. "And hopefully we'll all be really respecting of that environment in terms of how we decide to serve ads once ads become more common in that space.

"We're also interested in making the product as beautiful as we can, both in terms of the content and the monetisation experience."

One further learning from the shortcomings of the wider digital advertising economy involves measurement – a thorny area which is being placed under heightened scrutiny by brand owners, including Procter & Gamble.

Virtual reality, Howard suggested, will need to develop comparable metrics like cost-per-click (CPC) or cost-per-thousand, while also reflecting its uniquely immersive character.

"It can't be subjective. We need to be standardised and we all need to be able to talk about it in the same way," she said. "I think we're all getting around that right now to understand that, because there isn't a set CPC or CPM for VR."

Data sourced from Warc