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VR elicits 27pc higher emotional engagement than 2D environment: report

VR is proving to return dividends in the most integral marketing components, increasing engagement by 34 percent over identical content viewed in 2D, according to a new report.

The report?carried out by technology company YuMe and facilitated through a partnership with Nielsen?s behavioral coding technologies?was released today, and outlines the potential for emotional brand engagement through ?neuroscience-informed research.? The findings could be good news for brands already leveraging VR, and an additional draw for those still hesitant to make the investment.

?VR-type experiences (including branded and other content) will undoubtedly make up more and more of the media landscape in the future,? said James McNally, director of digital strategy at TDT, New York. ?As the Nielsen study highlights, these experiences do elicit heightened emotional engagement from participants, which advertisers are eager to leverage. 

?However, VR will not become an advertising status quo overnight; there are a host of logistical, technological, and human behavioral issues that need to be solved by brands, content creators, and hardware/software producers.  Creating good VR content can be quite labor intensive and tricky, plus the delivery method is crucial, and there is currently no consistent hardware or device in wide use.?

Neuroscience in marketing
The research was carried out using content from an entertainment advertiser and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Consumers experienced the content, which originally was developed for highly immersive platforms, in three distinct environments: mobile VR, 360-degree video on a flat screen and flat, two-dimensional TV screens. 

The results were then quantified through Nielsen?s biometric, eye-tracking and behavioral coding technologies for brand engagement. 

The study showed that VR presented participants with the opportunity to play director, navigating through experiences in their own, unique ways, and suggested that, ?brands must understand this journey in order to effectively divert attention to key branding moments, without interrupting the experience.?

Key data takeaways from the study included: VR elicited 27% higher emotional engagement than in a 2D environment and 17% higher emotional engagement than a 360-degree video on a flat screen and that VR viewers are emotionally engaged 34% longer than when they view the same content in 2D and 16% longer than when they view the same content in 360-degree video on a flat screen.

Key findings
Extrapolating from their data, has YuMe compiled a list of findings for brands interested in increasing engagement. It suggested that content provide viewers with the opportunity to explore a virtual world, but to also keep in mind that story flow is critical for effectiveness: since viewers are in control of their own experience, attention is easily diverted to aspects in view (scenery, landmarks) apart from the primary storyline.

YuMe also suggested that brands leverage new techniques while re-considering what may not translate well from linear environments, and that the use of audio and language are critical for guiding viewer attention and narrative flow.

?Brands are and will continue to try to leverage emotional impact to cut through audience ennui, but it's too early to say how ?emotional? brands will try to be in the VR space,? Mr. McNally said. ?Step 1 is simply figuring out how to deliver core brand messaging, and nuance or more advanced objectives (like emotional response) will likely take longer to perfect. 

?VR experiences are already being used to sell real estate in far-off cities, and we should expect the travel and tourism industries to move aggressively into VR.  Of course, the travel and tourism industry has the same technological, UX, and audience reception issues around VR that any other industry does, but travel experiences do lend themselves quite well to VR-based promotion."