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AR/VR: Marketing in three dimensions

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AR/VR: Marketing in three dimensions

Can you interact with a salesperson or a product as if you were in the same room, even though you are on your computer, someplace else?

Volumetric storytelling is what we are talking about. It’s okay to admit you never it called that before. This involves rendering a 3D world that one can interact with via the computer, but it must be delivered to the user. Either take them into the world through the viewing goggle (virtual reality) or show them the image as it would appear in their home (augmented reality).

This technology is still in the “proof of concept” stage, with some tentative efforts at marketing. Perhaps one good example of volumetric storytelling in action was the holographic appearances of Ukrainian president Volodymir Zelensky at various European diplomatic gatherings, or ABBA’s recent virtual concert in London.

“I would define volumetric storytelling as deployed in AR or VR and leveraging 360-degree photography to produce a 3D model made through volumetric capture or motion capture.” Explained D.J. Smith, COO of VR and AR platform The Glimpse Group.

But how do you get there?

Stacking visual building blocks

First, you must start with the 360-degree capture of an object to render into 3D. This will involve placing the subject in the center of an array of cameras to capture the subject from all angles. In the case of the virtual ABBA concert, this took 160 cameras to capture the four band members.

“Volumetric capture is not cheap and is not lite,” said Courtney Harding, founder and CEO of VR and AR agency Friends with Holograms. The technique generates large-sized files that can choke on delivery over narrow bandwidths. If a volumetric file is delivered over a 5G network, that’s fine, but anything less will result in a “laggy” playback, she explained.

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A 360-degree photo shoot has its own challenges to be worked out. How many people? Are they moving or standing still?  Are they speaking? Dancing? Juggling? One person — or four? “You have to capture all the data, all the people.” Harding said. And the video must be done in one take. If that scene takes 15 minutes, and someone sneezes in the last 30 seconds, you are stuck. There is no “cutting away” to another scene, so you may have to do it over again, she said.

How to deliver the goods

The volumetric story needs a platform to be seen. That means virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR). Each method has its strengths and weaknesses, as well as its own sensibilities.

The 360 technology offers “great visibility into an environment, but it’s not comfortable in a VR headset,” said Smith,

AR provides a “unique experience, but isolated use cases and greatly hampered by the requirement to use phones.” He said. “Opportunities will greatly open with AR wearables.” Here Google and Apple are readying new plans for AR-friendly smart glasses, a concept Google tried once before.

As for virtual reality, it has “amazing and transformative experiential potential, however, [it is] hindered by early stage, bulky, expensive hardware and lack of great content in a wide variety of genres.” Smith noted.

Even the platform on which you plan to display a volumetric file will dictate the limits of your storytelling. The smartphone offers a small screen for an AR story. VR is bigger, offering a much wider field of view, Harding explained, but there will be a greater level of complexity.

“AR deployment is more subject-based,” Smith said. Think of showing a product in a customer’s living room, viewed through their smartphone. “Virtual reality is more environment-based. You are transported into the volumetric scene.” Smith said. “VR is an empathy machine. In the VR experience, the user has a sense of presence — you feel as if you are there.”

Showing rather than just telling the story

It’s that sense of presence that is the main attraction of volumetric storytelling. Shlomi Ron, CEO of the Visual Storytelling Institute, likened it to the science fiction experience of being teleported to another world. When executed correctly, volumetric storytelling should provide a “3D experience, letting the people interact” with the subject, be it a person or a product.

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It is possible to replicate a real-life setting, allowing users to teleconference into a virtual sitting room, Ron explained. It would look like a real room. Users would be able to see everything and walk around in it.

Such a technology would be ideal for travel brands, “creating a sense of ‘being there’” when selling a destination vacation, Ron explained. The same technology can also be used for urban planning, product development and remote training.

Still, a creative would have to bring a different sensibility into the room when crafting a 3D shoot. “Think about it as game development,” Ron said. “You have to make sure that any potential angle and perspective has some value from the perspective of the user.”


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Still figuring it all out

The problem with new technologies is that potential can be demonstrated, but practical use is harder to show. There is no checklist of sensible practices a digital marketer can “check off” when constructing a campaign using volumetric storytelling.

Harding encouraged people put on a headset “and get a sense of what is possible”. One such piece of content is “On the Morning You Wake to the End of the World”, which Harding cited as an example of volumetric storytelling. The short film recounts a day when people in Hawaii woke up to a smartphone alert about incoming ICBMs.

“Understand what good storytelling is, and what is possible,” Harding said. Then it will be easier to figure out what is good for the brand.

“It’s up to the marketer to apply the teleporting experience to the goal,” said Ron.

“The best thing digital marketers can do is to keep a close eye on industry deployments to understand the potential and start experimenting with small proof of concept activations.” Smith said.

Marketers should make a start on discerning strengths and weaknesses of the volumetric technique. They will have to develop their own checklist of best practices the hard way — by trying it.


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About The Author

William Terdoslavich is a freelance writer with a long background covering information technology. Prior to writing for MarTech, he also covered digital marketing for DMN.

A seasoned generalist, William covered employment in the IT industry for Insights.Dice.com, big data for Information Week, and software-as-a-service for SaaSintheEnterprise.com. He also worked as a features editor for Mobile Computing and Communication, as well as feature section editor for CRN, where he had to deal with 20 to 30 different tech topics over the course of an editorial year.

Ironically, it is the human factor that draws William into writing about technology. No matter how much people try to organize and control information, it never quite works out the way they want to.

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MARKETING

6 martech contract gotchas you need to be aware of

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6 martech contract gotchas you need to be aware of

Having worked at several organizations and dealt with many more vendors, I’ve seen my share of client-vendor relationships and their associated “gotchas.” 

Contracts are complex for a reason. That’s why martech practitioners are wise to lean on lawyers and buyers during the procurement process. They typically notice terms that could undoubtedly catch business stakeholders off guard.

Remember, all relationships end. It is important to look for thorny issues that can wreak havoc on future plans.

I’ve seen and heard of my share of contract gotchas. Here are some generalizations to look out for.

1. Data

So, you have a great data vendor. You use them to buy contacts and information as well as to enrich what data you’ve already got. 

When you decide to churn from the vendor, does your contract allow you to keep and use the data you’ve pulled into your CRM or other systems after the relationship ends? 

You had better check.

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2. Funds

There are many reasons why you would want to give funds in advance to a vendor. Perhaps it pays for search ads or allows your representatives to send gifts to prospective and current customers. 

When you change vendors, will they return unused funds? That may not be a big deal for small sums of money. 

Further, while annoying, processing fees aren’t unheard of. But what happens when a lot of cash is left in the system? 

You had better make sure that you can get that back.

3. Service-level agreements (SLAs)

Your business is important, and your projects are a big deal. Yet, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll get a prompt response to a question or action when something wrong happens. 

That’s where SLAs come in. 

It’s how your vendor tells you they will respond to questions and issues. A higher price point typically will get a client a better SLA that requires the vendor to respond and act more quickly — and more of the time to boot (i.e., 24/7 service vs. standard business hours). 

Make sure that an SLA meets your expectations. 

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Further, remember that most of the time, you get what you pay for. So, if you want a better SLA, you may have to pay for it.


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4. Poaching

Clients and vendors alike are always looking for quality people to employ. Sometimes they find them on the other side of the client-vendor relationship. 

Are you OK with them poaching one of your team members? 

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If not, this should be discussed and put into writing during the contract negotiation phase, a renewal, or at any time if it is that important.

 I have dealt with organizations that are against anti-poaching clauses to the point that a requirement to have one is a dealbreaker. Sometimes senior leadership or board members are adamant about an individual’s freedom to work where they please — even if one of their organization’s employees departs to work for a customer or vendor. 

5. Freebies

It is not unheard of for vendors to offer their customers freebies. Perhaps they offer a smaller line item to help justify a price increase during a renewal. 

Maybe the company is developing a new product and offers it in its nascent/immature/young stage to customers as a deal sweetener or a way to collect feedback and develop champions for it. 

Will that freemium offer carry over during the next renewal? Your account executive or customer success manager may say it will and even spell that out in an email. 

Then, time goes by. People on both sides of the relationship change or forget details. Company policies change. That said, the wording in a contract or master service agreement won’t change. 

Make sure the terms of freebies or other good deals are put into legally sound writing.

Read next: 24 questions to ask ABM vendors before signing the contract

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6. Pricing factors

There are many ways vendors can price out their offerings. For instance, a data broker could charge by the contact engaged by a customer. But what exactly does that mean? 

If a customer buys a contact’s information, that makes sense as counting as one contact. 

What happens if the customer, later on, wants to enrich that contact with updated information? Does that count as a second contact credit used? 

Reasonable minds could justify the affirmative and negative to this question. So, evaluating a pricing factor or how it is measured upfront is vital to determine if that makes sense to your organization. 

Don’t let contract gotchas catch you off-guard 

The above are just a few examples of martech contract gotchas martech practitioners encounter. There is no universal way to address them. Each organization will want to address them differently. The key is to watch for them and work with your colleagues to determine what’s best in that specific situation. Just don’t get caught off-guard.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


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About The Author

Steve Petersen is a marketing technology manager at Zuora. He spent nearly 8.5 years at Western Governors University, holding many martech related roles with the last being marketing technology manager. Prior to WGU, he worked as a strategist at the Washington, DC digital shop The Brick Factory, where he worked closely with trade associations, non-profits, major brands, and advocacy campaigns. Petersen holds a Master of Information Management from the University of Maryland and a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Brigham Young University. He’s also a Certified ScrumMaster. Petersen lives in the Salt Lake City, UT area.

Petersen represents his own views, not those of his current or former employers.

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