For organizations of all sizes and in all industries, corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become a key area of focus. Whether emphasizing environmentally friendly actions, local community outreach or brand alignment with core initiatives, effective CSR can positively impact employees, customers and society at large.
A separate trend in the communications world is the emergence of 360 video. In 2016, Virgin Media released "the world's first ever 30 second 360-degree TV ad," produced by Irish International BBDO and Littlstar.
Now corporate communicators are finding that 360 videos can be a great vehicle for communicating their CSR successes both internally and externally.
What is 360 video?
According to Mike Perlow, president of Perlow Productions, these videos provide an "experiential platform" for communicators to get their messages across to various audiences in uniquely effective ways. That's because they're immersive: You're seeing things in a way that makes it feel like you're there.
How does it work? Patrick Meci Clark, a marketing strategist, writer and director, explains that at its most basic, 360 video is a VR workflow that involves arranging multiple cameras — anywhere from four to 15 or more — to capture the chosen filming area. Once captured, these separate streams are stitched together to form a panoramic image through programs like VideoStitch, Kolor Autopano Video or SkyStitch. "Once this is done," Clark says, "the film can be edited in Adobe Premiere Pro or Avid Media Composer, and this is where a lot of work to correct the footage must happen since there is a lot of pixel distortion. Simple tasks like stabilization or color correction or even adding titles becomes very complicated in a 3D space."
360 video and CSR
How might 360 videos aid your organization's CSR efforts? The value of 360 video is that it allows audiences to feel more engaged with your content. "If there's something that you want an audience to see, but maybe they can't easily go there, this is a great way to go," notes Perlow. "They can experience what you want them to experience just by throwing on a set of goggles and watching the video."
Doug Dibert, owner of Crossing River Studios in Columbus, Ohio, shared an example from his studio. "We recently worked with a large shopping mall that wanted to draw folks from around the community and highlight their new play area as a safe and fun place for all families." Through 360 video, he says, parents were able to "experience the new space that the mall created for the entire community to enjoy."
Heineken used what they called a "360 video selfie" to reward festival-goers who participated in their Dance More, Drink Slow public safety campaign. The campaign encourages harm-reduction behaviors around alcohol consumption. And Lockheed Martin's Mars Experience Bus immerses student groups in a Martian landscape, inspiring them to become extraterrestrial explorers.
The need to throw on those goggles can present a potential barrier to adoption, Perlow acknowledges. The technology isn't yet widely in use, but it's required in order to get the most out of the experience. Without goggles, headsets or "VR vehicles" like Lockheed Martin's, users can still view 360 videos, moving through them with their cursors — but this can't provide the same level of immersion.
Another big barrier for corporate communicators is the cost of purchasing the equipment necessary to produce 360 videos — including cameras and software — along with the risk that that technology may quickly become outdated. And as Clark says, "At the very least, VR complicates traditional video production by a factor of five."
That complexity, of course, impacts cost. But by how much? The answer to this question is, of course: It depends. Pricing, says Perlow, "is kind of analogous to standard video production — it depends on the scope of what you're doing." That scope, he says, can range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands.
For those in a do-it-yourself mood, it's possible to set yourself up to shoot VR video, he says. However, the quality of DIY efforts may not make for the best reflection on your brand. "We live in the DIY age, but ... this type of video marketing creation is not for beginners," agrees Dibert.
When to consider 360 video
There are a number of considerations to keep in mind when choosing a service provider, including cost, background and experience. Ultimately, says Clark, organizations thinking about adding a VR component to their communications "must make sure they know whether they would like to be at the forefront, with the upfront investment risk entailed, or whether they are content with following the crowd once VR becomes more established and affordable."
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