CNN And Volvo Hope Their Upcoming VR Ad Campaign Eclipses Conventional Advertising

It’s still unclear how 360-degree video or virtual reality will affect media and advertising long-term since many brands and networks are still in the experimental stage.

But CNN and Volvo hope to up the ante during next Monday’s solar eclipse.

The news broadcaster and automaker collaborated on four pieces of branded content that will live-stream Aug. 21 on, CNN’s mobile apps, the Oculus headset and CNN’s Facebook Live 360 channel.

Each stream will feature a different influencer – Explorers Club President Richard Wiese, “The Martian” author Andy Weir, Egyptologist Kara Cooney and former astronaut Cady Coleman – trekking to an eclipse viewing location.

That 360-degree content will also feature interactive commercial breaks shot in 360-degree video and 4K VR, showcasing Volvo’s luxury XC60 SUV – which conveniently comes with a 360-degree camera.

“We shopped this idea around to different [networks] and some had the technology, but [lacked] the scale or the newsworthiness,” said John Militello, director of marketing innovation and strategy for Volvo. “We had partnered with CNN before on media, and knew we didn’t just want to create an ad. We wanted to add value.”

But this campaign was not just about the branded content.

Promoting the content in the lead-up to the eclipse took a lot of resources. CNN created high-impact banners that let consumers set calendar reminders for the eclipse, as well as a series of precursory videos teasing locations to tune in to the eclipse.

“We’re looking at engagement, followed by views and interactions the day of,” said Michal Shapira, SVP and head of content partnerships for Turner’s news division, in terms of how the network will gauge the success of the activation.

“It’s a massive collaborative effort,” Shapira added. “There are tons of players, from the client to the agencies, and we are literally linking arms with edit on a daily basis.

“We saw this not only as an opportunity for editorial with the historic moment around the eclipse itself, but [a way to build] branded content in a way that’s completely cross-platform.”

It’s not clear how the novel cross-platform experiment will perform, but Militello said Volvo doesn’t mind being the “benchmark” brand.

“We’ve had a history over the last two years of doing 360-degree video, and the beauty of doing something like this is you get to look at the data first,” Militello said. “It’s a little scary, but at the same time, we wanted to be pioneers.”

One big shift Militello has seen is the migration of traditional broadcasters who once sold programming slots by daypart to “marrying their scale, clout and gravitas with what digital platforms and publishers have been able to do with audience,” he said. “That’s changing the way we consume not only editorial entertainment, but advertiser content.”

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