Getting Started With Immersive Storytelling


Look forward and dream

I recently had the pleasure of leading an Ad Week panel for Media Post's OMMA VR/AR series. The topic was storytelling with augmented and virtual reality (what I refer to as mixed reality), and one of the biggest discussion points was around brand adoption. What are the challenges and roadblocks, and what can we do to educate brands on the value of immersive storytelling?

Step back and look forward

The proliferation of immersive content has created a "fear of missing out" phenomenon, causing some brands to feel like they're behind the curve. The result is a rush to market with poor experiences that dilute the value of these new mediums. So we think the best way to start thinking about immersive storytelling is to take a step back before you move forward.

Microsoft's RoboRaid HoloLens game (Image source: Microsoft).

Microsoft's RoboRaid HoloLens game (Image source: Microsoft).

We believe there’s still an opportunity for brands to make a lasting impression with 360, especially for those looking to dip their toe in the water.
— Michael Kuntz, SVP of Digital Revenue at USA Today Network

First, start to think of mixed reality as an experience platform, not an unattainable technology. It's a digital (and sometimes physical) storytelling tool that educates, transports and delights. It can take you to a Syrian refugee camp—where you'll experience what it's like to be without a home and country—or put you in an aging body so you can experience the effects of growing old. And it can even use your physical surroundings to allow you to create a custom, personalized experience

When you think about immersive storytelling, you don't have to start big, you just have to start smart. Michael Kuntz, SVP of Digital Revenue at USA Today Network, says the video content their team produces is meant to work on VR platforms as well as 360 video across social channels.

"We believe there’s still an opportunity for brands to make a lasting impression with 360, especially for those looking to dip their toe in the water," said Kuntz. "That's why we're seeing a steady stream of 360 content across channels like Facebook and YouTube."

Our SoccAR experience prototype, which uses both Kinect and the HoloLens.

Our SoccAR experience prototype, which uses both Kinect and the HoloLens.

Don't get caught up in process

Long-standing agency processes may make the idea of adding a new tool to your digital toolboxes daunting, but it shouldn't. The idea of working in a new medium should be fun, feel challenging and ultimately transformative. 

"Transformational thinking and experiences do not happen overnight," says Wade Forst, our Senior Director. "If your company does not have an innovation arm, augment the team with a unique blend of agile technologists, creatives and experience architects."

The typical reasons for executing projects in certain ways sometimes depends on historical data to support success. But given VR and AR are so new, those metrics may not exist and that in itself can be a barrier for brands. Getting over that might include a mix of both "just trust us" and proofs of concept. Storyboarding doesn’t always give the experience the justice it deserves, and teams should rely on prototyping to convey immersive elements so that traditional thinking and judgments can be re-written. This highly-collaborative process often influences the stories that are told and how best to tell them within these new realities.

Dream the unimaginable

Some might say these mixed realities will usher in a new Age of Discovery where the unattainable is within reach and only limited by our curiosity and creativity. Once you've conquered your barriers follow these guiding points to help pave the way towards the uncharted:

  • Challenge the linear approach to storytelling;
  • Leverage as many senses as you can;
  • Be mindful of the effects of motion and acceleration;
  • Step outside of your traditional points of view;
  • Challenge participation and engagement;
  • Be truthful to the experience and technology;
  • Test, listen and learn;
  • Have fun.

Now look forward.


Eric Grant (@ericgrant) is Creative Director for the Razorfish Emerging Experiences team, based out of our New York office. Header photo: Adam Mason for Ad Week

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