The Rise of Sci-Fi: VR and AI in Advertising

Summary: Virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and ad personalization are very much a part of advertising’s present reality and future trajectory. We break down VR and AI’s present and future applications in advertising in this article.

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The year is 2054. A man strides through a crowded mall, bombarded on all sides by holographic ads. Cars, watches, a vacation in the tropics — the ads all scream for attention like alluring apparitions, promising luxury and escape. An automated voice speaks to the man by name, familiar like an old friend, “John Anderton, you could use a Guinness right about now!”

This scene, from the 2010 film Minority Report reads straight out of science fiction… or does it? Each element of high-tech advertising in this imagined future — virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and ad personalization — are very much a part of advertising’s present reality and future trajectory. While we’re not quite at the level of advancement (or arguably the level of ethical quandary) imagined in most sci-fi, advertising and marketing is implementing these technologies in innovative ways. We break down VR and AI’s present and future applications in advertising in this article.

Virtual and Augmented Reality

Virtual reality (VR) is the use of computer technology to create a simulated environment. Similarly, augmented reality (AR) combines digital elements with the real world, such as when a phone screen superimposes digital elements over a real world field of vision. 

The Present: 

AR has become a popular aspect of social media and apps, with filters that interact with people’s faces and environments. Businesses like IKEA have successfully adapted this technology into their marketing strategy with the Home app which allows users to virtually simulate pieces of furniture in their homes. VR, on the other hand, can be more expensive for brands to implement, requiring 360 degree filmography like in this Patron advertisement

Furthermore, VR requires special lenses or headsets for audiences to experience it. This naturally limits your audience to people who use/own VR tech. However, that could also work to a brand’s advantage if their target is tech savvy or early adopters of VR, like video gamers. 

The Future: 

The advantages to AR and VR are numerous. It is by definition, immersive, prompting high engagement. Furthermore, AR and VR allows online shoppers to ‘try’ a product or a service before purchase, leading to higher buyer confidence and conversion rates. VR also offers novel user data like eye gesture tracking, a metric of what viewers are watching and for how long. With the combined AR and VR market size expected to reach $767 billion by 2025, and 57.4 million Americans already adopting VR technology, the industry will only continue to become a more accessible and prevalent aspect of marketing. 

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a branch of computer science that simulates intelligent behavior in computers. In essence, AI are machines programmed to mimic human learning in that they learn from past experiences and information (historical data) to make smarter decisions in the future. 

The Present:

AI has long been essential to most programmatic advertising platforms, which manage real-time ad buying, selling, and placement, all in the time it takes to load a web page. This includes advertising on platforms like Facebook and Snapchat, which use algorithmic AI to dictate ad spend, placement, frequency, and more, all without human involvement. 

However, today advertisers can utilize AI tools for almost every aspect of the advertising process. AI can identify and segment audiences, test thousands of variables against each other, help hyper-personalize ads to audiences, and continuously optimize ad performance and budget. Some commercially available systems can even analyze ad performance and offer strategies to meet KPIs. Furthermore, creative built by AI is showing success in certain situations, such as this Lexus commercial, which was written by AI.

The Future:

All of this may lead to an obvious question. If AI can do all of this then what is the point of … well human advertisers? However, rather than a replacement for human intelligence, AI is a tool marketers can use for greater predictive control. Even as AI advances, we’re a long way from AI replacing human creatives and strategists entirely. 

At Esparza for one, we welcome the data-driven insight AI can provide and are always adopting technology that can push us closer to certainty.

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