Industry POV

Indian brands are waking up to augmented, virtual realities - Rajiv Dingra


Pokemon Go became a rage in India even without Niantic formally launching the game in India. Obviously, this caught the attention of marketers constantly looking for newer ways to push their brands and make more money.

Enter advertising campaigns using augmented (AR) and virtual realities (VR).

Tata Motors, as early as April this year, introduced its car Tiago through virtual reality. It featured a DIY (Do It Yourself) VR headset carried in select editions of newspapers giving consumers a feel of the car, albeit at a basic level.

It did not stop there.

Slowly, the number of brands using AR, VR to reach consumers is only increasing.

Axis bank, for instance, has used AR for its mobile application. French carmaker Renault has used VR to showcase its new small hatchback disguised as an SUV--Kwid.

Even with prohibitive advertising rules for alcohol companies, Glenfiddich has found a novel way of using AR and VR activations to promote their single malt whiskey.

Fashion brands like Maybelline created a 360 degree film for Amazon India Fashion Week

Even IPL team Rising Pune Supergiants used a VR film to give fans an experience of what it would be like to take part in a practice session.

Growing AR and VR market

Augmented reality (AR) is a live direct or indirect view of the real-world environment whose elements are supplemented by computer-generated sensory inputs such as graphics, video, sound or GPS data. Virtual reality (VR), on the other hand, is a computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that a person can interact with in a seemingly physical way using special electronic devices.

The AR market globally is expected to reach $117.4 billion (at compounded growth rate of 76%) by 2022, while the global VR market is expected to touch $34 billion (at a CAGR of 58%), according to MarketsandMarkets report called Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality Market – Global Forecast to 2022.

The investment in VR and AR has grown by as much as 85% in the first half of 2016 over the total of previous year's funding to $1.3 billion, according to a recent CB Insights report.

“The increasing demand for AR and VR technology-based products in various verticals such as consumer, aerospace and defence, commercial, and medical is responsible for the market growth,” said the MarketsandMarkets' report.

It added that there is an increase in the use of head-mounted displays (HMDs) in the entertainment and gaming sector, declining prices of displays and other hardware components of HMDs, and use of VR for training and simulation in the defence sector are the major factors driving the virtual reality market.

The Asia-Pacific region is the fastest-growing market as it includes countries like China, Japan, South Korea, and others, the report added.

Are costs a factor?
So what are the costs of creating an AR or VR creative or ad in India?

“Cost for AR can vary from as minimal as Rs 10 lakh to over Rs 1 crore, depending upon the detailing and coding needed for the AR experience. VR, on the other hand, can be a simple 360 degree video which can cost around Rs 7 lakh to Rs 1.2 crore as it may involve camera like Go Pro, Drone, Nokia Ozo and lot of post-production work,” says Ashish Limaye, CEO – APAC of creative production studio and agency Happy Finish which specialises in 360 degree videos and have created VR creatives for Tata Tiago, Renault, Glenfiddich, among other brands.

This is not that expensive considering that the average cost of producing a TV ad campaign currently could be anywhere between Rs 6 crore to over Rs 16 crore, depending on location, celebrities, production value, director, etc.

So is it that the equipment cost such as for buying the VR headset (HMD) an impediment?

“Not at all, the Google cardboard is cheap and freely available. Expensive ones like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive might be an issue though,” says Rijiv Dingra, Founder and CEO of WATConsult, which has launched new research division ‘Recogn’.

For instance, Google Cardboard is available for as low as Rs 269 on Ebay, while Oculus Rift is as high as Rs 39,847 ($599).

The crux of the issue
Pratik Gupta, Co-founder of FoxyMoron believes the problem lies not with equipment cost but with the specialised software cost which are used to produce these AR or VR campaigns.

“Very few know how to use these AR and VR software and if you go to people who do they charge a high premium,” he said.

The agency has launched its own AR and VR division called ‘Phosphene’ and is behind the work of Maybelline New York India 360 degree film and Rising Pune Supergiants’ VR film.

Dingra believes that talent for creating good AR and VR creatives is scarce and that is an impediment.

Similarly, Limaye says, “In my view it is the dearth of generic content in VR which is a stumbling block. Any content channel attracts advertisers because there is enough of generic content which gets viewers and hence brands are keen. In VR the headset costs are not very high, it is the availability of brilliant content which is a stumbling block.”

Gupta further added that VR headsets are as usable as the availability of creatives. “It has got its challenges, but once people understand and create AR and VR creatives, this will also lead to larger spends by brands on AR and VR,” he said.

Not just a passing phase
Dingra, however, says he sees more brands experimenting in the next 2-3 years. “It's here to stay and from a 10 year standpoint it could be one of the most important consumption tool of our generation,” he added.

Limaye pointed out, “It could have been a passing phase, if the ecosystem - mobile phones, Head Mounted Displays (HMD), bandwidth and platforms to promote these were not present. Today you can shoot a VR content and upload it on Facebook or YouTube which gives a mass reach. I believe the ecosystem is coming together well to deliver good experiences and hence it should be a function of time, but not a passing phase.”