360° video is a huge opportunity for brands

Nils Forsblom
Nils Forsblom wrote this on

360-degree video is a huge opportunity for brands—if they’re willing to give up control

Social media has put consumers in the driver’s seat, eroding brands’ ability to control their own messages directly. Now, a new medium will take that trend even further: immersive, 360-degree video. With 360 video, brands will need to learn how to create engaging, open experiences where they’re not fully in control. For those that can pull it off, the rewards will be immense.

At its heart, 360-degree video is a form of virtual reality. It puts the viewer inside a spherical ball to get the “big picture” of what’s happening in all directions — up, down, and all around. Its biggest potential will be on mobile, where instead of clicking on arrows or manipulating a mouse to pan a scene like you do on a desktop, you simply move your smartphone or tablet out in front of you to change the viewing angle, resulting in a more seamless, intuitive experience. It effectively makes your phone into a small, movable window into a virtual world.

Don’t underestimate the power of 360 video — consumers are going to love it. If you’re watching a political event (like this one), you don’t have to keep your eye on the candidate. You can take a visual tour of the scene, swirling a full 360 degrees to gaze out at the audience or zero in on a reporter—to examine their responses or pick up on something odd, quirky, or highly relevant, happening “out there” in a realm that was previously off camera.

Getting this new medium right takes a lot more than plunking down a spherical camera rig into any old scene. To work, 360 has to be inspiring, like a piece of art. It has to elicit emotion and tug at the viewer’s innate sense of curiosity and give him or her a reason to explore — and that’s not so easy to pull off. But when you capture the right adventure, the panning itself tells a deep, more intriguing story. Take a look at this Jungle Book trailer taken through Mowgli’s eyes, and tell me you don’t want to look around to find out where that scary voice is coming from.

While 2D videos often cut from scene to scene, sweeping the viewer along a controlled, preset narrative, 360 might unveil a solitary, but rich experience that you can watch over and over again, taking in different nuances each time. Movies are already taking advantage of 360. Take for instance this Warcraft movie trailer or this Star Wars one. But a lot more can be done with the medium. National Geographic released a 360 video on swimming with bears. The BBC is doing an entire TV series in 360 called BBC Click. Tourism industries, especially, will find 360 useful in selling hotel rooms or letting a consumer know what it’s like to stand on a pristine, isolated beach, because 360 is all about making you feel like you’re there.

Ultimately for brands, 360 video means giving up the “director’s vision.” You can no longer direct the viewer’s attention. You simply need to capture that one compelling event and let the viewer take over from there, keeping in mind that everyone may experience the same 360 video differently.

As for headsets, they are unlikely to have much impact in the long run. As Google Glass demonstrated, people don’t like to wear funky things on their heads when they’re around other people. And as even Apple watch is showing us, when you already have a screen on your phone, what is the point in having another? Aside from education purposes, headsets are impractical for day to day living.

Right now, some of the 360 videos out there still look a little low res, but once the technology catches up (in terms of computer hardware, camera technology, video codecs, media players, and bandwidth availability) we’ll begin to get really clear, high def pictures of what is happening all around the video camera — as well as seamless transitions between viewing angles in near real time.

There is no doubt this captivating new medium is here to stay. Brands who start getting used to 360 now will reap the rewards of unparalleled user engagement and gain early dominance of a medium. Now is the time to experiment, learn, engage, and to show leadership.

Nils Forsblom

About the Author

Nils is the CEO & Founder of Adtile. You can reach him at nils@adtile.me.

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