By Charlene Weisler
Marketers continue to seek greater connection with consumers and viewers. Often this connection involves storytelling where the brand crafts a personality or enhanced presence in the consumer’s mind. Now, with the advancements of VR, there is the ability to accelerate this personalization, not just for products, but also for programming and public service efforts.
For the curious soul who dreams of flying without a plane or crafting a highly personalized perfume scent from an algorithm applied to a psychographic questionnaire, there is FoST (the Future of Story Telling). FoST has launched the Story Arcade, which runs through April 21 in the Starrett-Lehigh Building on the far west side of Manhattan, and promises a range of VR storytelling experiences. Leveraging the “most innovative in new tech from around the world,” explained Audrey Barrie, Assistant Producer, FoST, each exhibit offers multi-sense ways of telling stories, “with ground-breaking new technologies.”
What drew me to the Story Arcade was Ben’s Chili Bowl, which I visited while in Washington DC. Participants wearing the Oculus VR equipment found themselves immersed in a 360 degree video experience titled Traveling While Black, directed by Roger Ross Williams, the first African American director to win an Academy Award. You rode in the back of the bus through Alabama in the 1960s. You sat in a booth in Ben’s listening to first-hand accounts of the dangers and indignities of everyday life and historical events. You are in the moment and it is impactful.
Documentary material like Traveling While Black and Munduruku: The Fight to Defend the Heart of the Amazon, which takes you into the heart of the Amazon to see the impact of deforestation on indigenous tribes, brings the viewer to a new level of understanding. Children’s books are brought to life with Wolves in the Walls, where the participant not only helps eight-year old Lucy find the wolves lurking in her attic walls, but also photographs them. All of the exhibits have a common purpose which is to find, “a different way of telling a story and discover how we can use media to activate a story and tell it differently,” noted Luis Pena, Director Product, Monir, which is a media tech startup that uses AI to generate personalized content at scale for brands and publishers.
For brands, the value in placing the consumer in the center of the action cannot be underestimated. For programmers, there are no limits on the variety of ways to connect the viewer to the content. The only question for both brands and programmers is how to scale this new technology so that it reaches mass adoption. For now this highly personal experience is one-on-one, but the technology is advancing quickly.