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Leveraging Virtual Reality to Create Transcendent Brand Experiences

Updated: Jan 4

With an estimated active user count of 2.5 billion, Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook has revolutionised the way human beings interact – for better, or for worse depending on who you ask. Even with money that’s multiplying at a cellular rate, Zuckerberg and the relentless minds at Silicon Valley continue to push the envelope of technological invention. Last year they released a VR headset named Oculus Quest, the first-ever all-in-one gaming system for virtual reality. This portable gadget, comprising of a headset and controllers, was central to Angle Orange’s innovative approach to the Reebok Classic Leather sneaker activation of 2019 titled, Reebok VR Custom Classic. Capturing the Imagination “It was an experience designed to bring people closer to the Reebok brand, particularly the Classic Leather silhouette, by immersing them in the virtual worlds we’d created and capturing their imaginations,” explains Pierre Le Grange, founding partner at Angle Orange. The campaign acted as a sequel to the successful foot traffic driver from the previous year, ‘DIY your Reebok’, which was a physical customisation of the Classic Leather silhouette, hosted by renowned tag artist Damn Vandal. This time around, participants were transported to their choice of three locations: an urban landscape, an abandoned zoo, or an art deco room. Here their realities were momentarily suspended as they customised their shoe with an even wider selection of artwork created by Vandal, himself. Upon completion, participants could share their creations on social media. “It was an innovative first for a VR activation and being able to transport elements from that and bring them to social media. So, we worked really hard to develop the software to enable it to actually link that process,” says Pierre. Real-life Obstacles, Virtual Solutions According to Creative Director Piet Rheeders, one of the major advantages of using Oculus Quest is scalability. “Even though we were only working with one headset in-store, if we wanted to have this activation run at, say a music festival, we could upscale and have 10 operating at the same time,” he says. In the game, the shoe is much larger, which was advantageous from a commercial standpoint. “Being able to immerse someone in an environment that captivates their imagination is one thing, but having someone take the time to actually pick up your shoe and consider it is a pinnacle goal within the footwear industry, so we wanted to take that to another level and really embed the properties of the product in the person’s mind,” he explains. Giving shoes out for everyone to draw on, as was the case with the DIY My Reebok activation, proved not to be feasible for the long term. “You have to consider that not everyone is an artist. Letting people doodle on an expensive shoe that will end up not being worn is a waste of resources and not particularly great for the environment, either. In the game, however, there were multiple sticker packs and tools which allowed people to create beautiful artwork that made them feel like real artists. So, the Oculus Quest, as a tool, actually enhanced user experience while minimizing wastage,” Piet explains. 100s of Hours The depth of the agency’s talent pool enabled the entire project to be executed in-house, meaning that every detail boasted AO’s creative flair. For Lead Game Designer Rolf Jacobs, System Developer Jason Pietersen, and Programmer Hendrik Blaauw, working on a project of this magnitude was a first, meaning they spent most of their time monkey-barring from one challenge to the next. “A lot of what went into this project was self-taught and we had to upskill ourselves to be able to rise to the occasion,” Jason explains. Late nights turned into early mornings as the team worked round the clock, trying to turn fantasy into virtual reality. From unfamiliar programming tools to incompatible databases and trying to get the accompanying website to work with a notoriously stubborn iOS system - this intellectual obstacle course resulted in 100s of hours logged into Magnetic. In the end, the willingness to find solutions and give themselves impromptu tutorials along the way made this a successful undertaking for the young team. Convenience v Power Running a VR activation is an idea that had been brewing in the AO team’s mind for a while, however, the technology had yet to meet the requirements needed to execute the concept as seamlessly as they did with the Oculus Quest. That’s not to say that the headset did not have its own set of shortcomings. “As with most things, there were positives and negatives to using this particular headset,” explains Rolf. “Think of it as convenience versus power. We favoured the Oculus Quest because of its portability, whereas the HTC Vive, another VR headset we had been using, has more power because it connects directly to a computer,” he says. Henk agrees, likening the processing power of the Oculus Quest to that of a cell phone. Although the three location sets that Rolf, along with animators Keegan De Lange and Wesley Fredericks, created looked incredible, getting them to a point where they could run smoothly without hanging or crashing required the textures to be simplified quite a lot. “In hindsight, I probably would have scaled it back, even more, perhaps we didn’t really need so many sticker options and other details,” Rolf admits. But can you really blame a team of creatives for prioritising the visual experience over minor technicalities? The Oculus Quest headset’s ease of use also meant that the activation could run smoothly, pretty much anywhere, without the presence of an IT professional. Sales reps were provided with a brief induction before the device was taken to stores. Making the Impossible Possible Perhaps the most important metric of success was the positive feedback, which came directly from the client, suggesting that the headset did its job by giving shoppers an unforgettable experience. “The activation set up was slick and well-crafted, consumers that participated thoroughly enjoyed the process, we had a few people wanting to run through it again and again.” As technology advances and becomes more easily accessible, Pierre is looking excitedly toward the future, and how tools like VR headsets and Instagram’s new augmented reality capabilities can affect marketing within the retail space. “An area where it could be beneficial is bringing a property that a brand owns into a space that it wouldn’t be able to live in, traditionally. For example, if a brand sponsors a big influencer like a soccer player or music artist, you can bring that artist into a space by replicating their presence and giving people the opportunity to feel like they are interacting with that person in real life,” says Pierre. He explains how this technology can breathe life into concepts that would otherwise be impossible to execute in real life. “Now you can have thousands of people test out a race car, have one-on-one interactions with global superstars or even customise a thousand sneakers. That’s the beauty of this technology when executed the right way,” he concludes.

If you’re looking to find out more about virtual reality activations and how they can enhance the shopper experience for your brand, contact

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