USA Today debuts the 'cubemercial'

24 October 2016

WASHINGTON DC: USA Today Network launched a new virtual reality news show last week that is being dubbed the first of its kind because it offers viewers not only a 360-degree show, but also "cubemercial" ad slots.

The Gannett-owned network debuted its "VRtually There" show on Thursday 2pm EST, the day and time it will be aired each week, with viewers able to access it via the USA Today app, its VR Stories app and on YouTube, which has a 60-day exclusivity deal for each episode.

Viewers were invited to immerse themselves in action-related content, such as watching F-18 jets take off from an aircraft carrier, and the company plans to deliver three original content segments within each episode.

USA Today announced before the launch that its network of journalists across the US will contribute to each episode, but it also wanted to highlight the introduction of what it called the "cubemercial".

It said this was "the industry's first VR ad unit created specifically for the medium" and that Toyota, the Japanese car maker, was to be the first major brand to take part with a 360-degree ad to promote its Camry marque.

"The cubemercial is what we believe is the first ad unit native to virtual reality," said Niko Chauls, Director of Applied Technology at USA Today, in comments to Mobile Marketer.

"The ad places the viewer in a 'cube' immersing consumers in a brand experience," he added. "This opportunity between the consumer and the brand is not available in any other medium and we are very excited for the possibilities to create very unique interactions with brands."

Chauls went on to tell Campaign US that the weekly show and its new ad unit will be able to turn round content within a very short timeframe – for example, content for a forthcoming episode featuring Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is expected to be produced within a week.

"What we want to do is create a regular occurrence, the expectation that you can come back week after week," he explained. "We felt that news is one of the most effective vehicles and content categories to do that in. That was a big part of the deal to YouTube and Google with the idea of this partnership."

Data sourced from USA Today, Mobile Marketer, Campaign US; additional content by Warc staff