Digital storytelling, VR and channeling panels at Advertising Week 2016

Immersive experiences? Midtown Manhattan is certainly one of them. So it was the perfect backdrop for Advertising Week 2016 and checking in on the current state of Virtual Reality, the new realities for brands and the seemingly endless buzz around Storytelling.  

With all the talk about VR over the last five years or so, one begins to think it’s called Virtual Reality because, the reality is, it’s still not here. The panel, “The Virtual Reality Audience” didn’t exactly invalidate my thesis. Some sound bites:

“Now is an amazing time! Google Daydream, mobile VR is about to launch. And Playstation VR is coming.”

“Brands are still doing one-offs. No long-term strategies yet.”

“Brands want to do VR just to do VR”

“We still need more distribution, more content.”

“Millennials want shorter, snackable VR content.”

“I know! I have trouble sitting through a movie.”

Oy. Moving onto another panel, the VR story was more encouraging and really compelling. It was about VR and 360 video’s emerging role in changing how we experience global news. Panelist Bryn Mooser is a humanitarian and filmmaker, best known for co-founding RYOT, an immersive media company that specializes in virtual reality documentary.

“VR and Immersive is the next frontier. It can bring news into a new way of experiencing it. Imagine being on a beach with hundreds of Syrian refugees. VR can truly show the scale of a scene. Like the big earthquake in Nepal. You are able to really feel and experience the extent of the devastation.”

“All the big platforms are starting to support 360. Ads are next. The first VR TV show is coming to the HULU app. GoPro is announcing a 360 camera so prices are coming down. Citizen Journalism in these formats is coming.”

As part of the Oracle Data Cloud team, I was very attentive when he brought “data” into his VR storytelling narrative. “In VR, the data part is getting really interesting. You can track where people are looking within the experience. There’s a great opportunity to evolve storytelling through that.”

I left that panel pretty energized about the possibilities. Now I wanted to see where brands were with the Storytelling thing. I needed to look no further than the panel “Storytelling in the Digital Age: What Brands Need to Know.” Top players from huge brands Microsoft, Mastercard and IBM were participating, so it sounded like a great window onto that space.

Ann Rubin, VP Global Content and Creative at IBM, spoke about meeting the challenges of telling their story. “Digital lets us tell a deeper story. We deal in complex technologies (at IBM). Digital is the best way to create understanding. You can’t “Buy an IBM.” But now you can engage with Watson on various APL’s.”

Kathleen Hall, Global Vice President, Advertising & Media at Microsoft, sent an unambiguous message to the industry to step it up creatively. “In digital, we can explore the depths of stories without the constraint of time. That said, you better have a creative idea that’s executed well. People aren’t going to share crap.”

And Jill Cress; EVP Global Marketing at Mastercard added a powerful insight that felt almost philosophical. “Experiences matter more than things. Mastercard is celebrating moments that matter to drive preference for use of our products.  Consumers are buying into a belief system. Our job is to establish that belief system and drive loyalty to it.”

Our team’s presence at Advertising Week next to the Adara Stage was also a type of immersive experience for attendees. Our presence included giving away copies of The Data Source magazine, as well as providing live informational resources to answer data-driven campaign questions from our Data Concierge.

Here’s one last stat I learned that over the course of the week: At our activation, we gave away over 1,400 data-driven t-shirts at our Data Boutique and over 17,000 pieces of candy from our Data Candy Bar. Now that’s pretty sweet.