Nat Geo and Verizon’s Oath programmatically place ads in VR for ‘Mars’ series

The ads — a static image and a video trailer — display inside VR environments, the first commercial use for a capability Oath announced last summer.

Nat Geo and Verizon’s Oath programmatically place ads in VR for ‘Mars’ series |

Ads inside virtual reality (VR) environments have taken another step toward becoming commonplace, with the recent announcement that Oath and National Geographic have partnered to programmatically deliver VR ads for season 2 of Nat Geo’s “Mars” docudrama TV series.

The series, produced by the legendary team of director Ron Howard and producer Brian Grazer, shows a fictional mission to Mars interspersed with documentary segments on real-life Mars planning by today’s scientists.

Static image, video trailer inside VR. Inside VR gaming and social environments, users see ads for the Mars series as static images inside picture frames or on billboards, or as video clips on TVs. The ads themselves are not VR, in the sense of being navigable 3D environments.

The ads — a display ad and a 30-second trailer — are available programmatically through Oaths’ ad platforms, in partnership with the BidSwitch programmatic infrastructure and the VR/AR supply-side platform Admix.

The ads are running in VR environments like VR Thrills: Roller Coaster 360, Jurassic VR, VR Abyss & VR Racer, which are designed to work with any VR headset using Android phones: Daydream VR, Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard. The campaign, which began late last month, ends next week.

The Verizon-owned Oath announced this capability last summer, and Admix specializes in providing this kind of ad-inside-VR environment:

Not yet RTB. Jeff Lucas, Vice President and Head of North American Sales and Global Client Services for Oath (soon to be called Verizon Media Group), said that this programmatic delivery of the ads does not employ real-time bidding (RTB), but his company intends to eventually offer RTB for these kinds of ads. He added that the ads can be served for the appropriate Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) ad units.

This is the first programmatic delivery of ads inside VR for a Nat Geo series, although the company has previously used VR installations to promote the first season of “Mars,” as well as its series “Genius” and “One Strange Rock.”

Why this matters to marketers: According to eMarketer, there will be an estimated 37 million users of VR this year. As every new medium first reflects the previous media, these static and video ads inside VR environments reflect the web and in-app ads that currently dominate digital marketing. But, eventually, marketers will develop new ways of creating branded experiences that are themselves VR, potentially moving the messaging from convincing potential customers of a product’s virtues, to letting the potential customers experience the product directly.

This story first appeared on MarTech Today. For more on marketing technology, click here.

About The Author

Barry Levine covers marketing technology for Third Door Media. Previously, he covered this space as a Senior Writer for VentureBeat, and he has written about these and other tech subjects for such publications as CMSWire and NewsFactor. He founded and led the web site/unit at PBS station Thirteen/WNET; worked as an online Senior Producer/writer for Viacom; created a successful interactive game, PLAY IT BY EAR: The First CD Game; founded and led an independent film showcase, CENTER SCREEN, based at Harvard and M.I.T.; and served over five years as a consultant to the M.I.T. Media Lab. You can find him at LinkedIn, and on Twitter at xBarryLevine.

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