ORLANDO, FL: Ford, the automaker, is taking a “network approach” to virtual reality (VR) that provides this content with enduring strategic value, rather than adopting a campaign-led mindset about this innovative channel.

Lisa Schoder, Ford’s US integrated marketing and media lead, discussed this subject at the Association of National Advertisers’ (ANA) 2018 Media Conference.

One example of its efforts in this space involved a VR activation around the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the iconic all-day motor race held in France, to champion the new Ford GT.

Instead of favouring a one-off perspective, however, the automaker has sought to develop a content model that will deliver greater value in the long term.

“Why not create a VR cloud that takes a content-network approach rather than a campaign approach?” Schoder said in summarising its approach. (For more, read WARC’s in-depth report: Ford has yet another new idea: a cloud-based VR “algorithm buster”.)

In reflection of that objective, she said: “We really developed a strategic point of view for the role of VR. We needed to understand, exactly, what role VR would play for us.”

The first lesson was a difficult one in the face of such tempting technology: “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Restraint was really a big deal to us.”

And the second guideline for the car manufacturer: “The VR experience is about bringing consumers an experience that they could not otherwise have.”

With those guardrails in place, Schoder continued, “We set up our own publishing channels” to supply a richer mix of “incremental touchpoints” with Ford customers.

Not everybody has ready access to a VR headset, so the Ford creative team worked to create a 360-degree version of its content with “a lighter touch” that was mobile-phone friendly.

“Now, all of a sudden, you can put that content on Facebook. You can put that content on YouTube. And, that’s where we found that we got incremental scale out of the work,” Schoder said.

The model for the program, she added, came from The New York Times Co. and the versatile strategy it had created for its VR content. “We thought, ‘That’s a really smart approach.’”

Admiration turned into a partnership for the Le Mans activation. “We were able take advantage of their already existing audience, people who are engaged with their VR content, and bring them into our family,” Schoder said.

“We also established a landing page with more details about our storytelling around the experience with the GT at Le Mans.”

Sourced from WARC