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Hong Kong Airlines upgrades mobile ads with 360-degree virtual cabin walkthroughs

Hong Kong Airlines is flying in a new type of mobile ad format to promote upgraded flight seats via 360-degree videos enabling viewers to walk through a business class cabin and picture themselves experiencing premium travel.

The airline brand has teamed up with advertising automation platform Kiosked to power the new ad units, which will initially appear as a mobile banner on consumers? smartphones. Targeted individuals in Asia Pacific will be able to tap on the banner to expand the 360-degree video and virtually explore the cabin by tilting and rotating their device.

?Interactive is what we are going after,? said Antony Yiu, head of digital at MEC, the global media agency behind the campaign. ?We want to put the control in the hands of consumers to see the entire cabin from any perspective, rather than having a one-directional ad unit with a message to force feed our target audience.

?The 360 panorama allows the user to experience how it actually feels to travel in the business class so we are showing rather than telling, creating an overall more engaging advertising experience.?

Virtual reality walkthroughs
Hong Kong Airlines? campaign marks the first time a programmatically run digital ad campaign is leveraging 360-degree video units. The company is tapping Kiosked?s 360 panorama video unit to enable consumers to experience walkthroughs of its business class seating and cabin via a virtual reality window.

Viewers that opt to expand the unit will be able to more accurately picture themselves experiencing premium travel, which could prompt them to upgrade their seats to a business-class ticket for future trips.

?Immediate direct bookings were recorded and can be attributed back to the ad unit through tracking,? Mr. Liu said. ?It's rare for video ads to be able to drive direct booking based on last view/last click.

?As engagement was extremely high, we see a direct relationship between the engagement and conversion stemming from this.?

Individuals in the Asia Pacific region may spot Hong Kong Airlines? ads interspersed among articles and other mobile Web content in the form of a 300x250 banner ad. Once they click on the banner, it will expand to a full-screen experience on their smartphones.

Mobile users will immediately be able to tilt and rotate their personal devices to virtually explore the airline?s business class cabin and seats as though they are there in person.

Although airlines and hospitality brands heavily rely upon videos and imagery to promote their services and properties, using 360-degree videos offers a more immersive and realistic view to potential customers.

Hilton Hotels & Resorts was one of the first hospitality marketers to leverage 360-degree video in an ad unit that enabled consumers to tilt or rotate their smartphones as they were immersed in a virtual visit to the chain's Barbados resort (see story).

More airline brands may cotton onto this strategy and begin leveraging 360-degree videos with increased fervor in their mobile campaigns, especially as marketers ramp up their efforts include more engaging ad units that foster one-to-one interaction.

Asia Pacific was deemed to be one of the most optimal locations in which to launch Kiosked?s panorama units, due to its inherently mobile-first nature.

Consumers in this part of the world are exposed to a plethora of mobile and online ads, meaning that brands must up the ante with memorable content when rolling out scalable smartphone-specific campaigns.

Onboarding better results
Kiosked has found that its 360-degree panorama mobile ad units are 35 times more effective than their traditional display counterparts, with a 4.51 percent click-through rate to the landing site.

Additionally, viewers spend nine times longer on average exploring the virtual content versus a traditional display ad.

Companies concerned about scaling their immersive ad campaigns to mobile may want to consider using 360-degree formats that can be embedded within standard-size banner ads and will expand to full-screen once clicked on by the user.

?Selling an experience becomes the crucial part of success,? said David McGrath, managing director at Kiosked. ?But to sell an experience, we want to immerse our target audience into it.

?360-degree video achieves this by putting the target audience into control and inviting them to explore the experience before making the purchase decision.?