NEW YORK: Coca-Cola, the soft drinks giant, TV network HBO and Japanese automaker Nissan are a trio of leading global brands that are exploring the marketing opportunities offered by new virtual reality (VR) technology.

While the current cost of virtual reality equipment is prohibitively expensive for everyday use – as well as being too bulky – the three companies have been experimenting on ways to use VR to augment the experience of their customers.

As reported in Advertising Age, they are drawn to VR because it could be transformative for the ad industry, allowing marketers to sponsor virtual experiences that consumers actively seek out.

Coca-Cola, for example, used the recent FIFA World Cup to stage a VR experience where participants entered a replica of the locker room at Brazil's Maracana Stadium and, once connected to VR Oculus Rift goggles, they could then virtually move from the locker room to "play" on the pitch.

"It's about the authenticity of being inside that stadium," said Matt Wolf, head of global gaming at Coca-Cola, adding that participants would recognise that the experience was "thanks to Coke".

Meanwhile, HBO has launched a world tour of a VR experience derived from its popular Game of Thrones series. This involves a virtual replica of a 700-foot ice wall complete with sound effects in a 90-second show that is estimated to have cost as little as $2m.

Nissan, too, has been working on using VR experiences to build its brand. Visitors to last year's Tokyo Motor Show and the Detroit Auto Show in January were able to wear Oculus goggles to virtually explore a Nissan IDx concept car.

However, while VR holds many possibilities for the entertainment industry as well as early adopters of technology, such as General Electric and German automaker Audi, Aaron Richard, innovation strategist at San Francisco agency Heat, cautioned that it is unlikely to be suitable for FMCG brands.

"If you're a packaged-goods company, I don't think people are really going to want to wander the aisles of a virtual grocery store," he said.

Data sourced from Advertising Age; additional content by Warc