Oculus has a new star-studded 60-second spot, created by agency Anomaly, that aims to highlight how virtual reality entertainment—not just gaming—could be appealing to the masses.
Just in time for the holiday shopping season, the Facebook-owned VR company has recruited a slew of celebrities—Wiz Khalifa, Leslie Jones, Jonah Hill, Adam Levine, Behati Prinsloo and Awkwafina—to wear an Oculus Go headset while watching everything from basketball games to Oscar-winning movies.
According to Rebecca Van Dyck, CMO of AR/VR at Facebook, the goal of the ad is to help show all that’s possible within a headset beyond gaming—a feature the company initially marketed earlier this year when the headset first debuted. She said 80 percent of people who’ve already bought the Go are new to VR.
“We also just wanted to continue to normalize VR a bit more,” she said. “Especially with this really accessible price point.”
The Go, Facebook’s most consumer-friendly VR device, costs $200, a price the company hopes will make VR accessible enough for anyone interested in buying their first headset, without having to attach it to a powerful PC or an Android smartphone.
The ads—both a 60-second spot and several shorter adaptations that accompany it—have a humorous tone, showcasing the diverse array of VR content already on the Go. It starts with Khalifa sitting at a party wearing a Go inside a living room by himself rather than by the pool. Swaying slightly, the spot suddenly shows us what he’s looking at: 360-degree view of himself on stage rapping in front of a massive crowd. In the next scene, Hill and Levine are seen watching an NBA game in VR even while they’re in different locations. Later on, Jones is sitting in a tub and stroking the air while watching The Shape of Water.
In a way, the celebrities seem to be helping to humanize what many see as nerdy, bulky or confusing devices—using their familiar faces to break down unfamiliar walls of a new medium.
For example, in another spot, Hill and Levine, who are longtime friends in real life, watch the movie Stand By Me together from different locations while recounting a fake memory from childhood. While Hill makes fun of Levine, Levine’s real-life wife, Prinsloo, listens in from next to him in their bed. Seeing the digital VR avatars of Hill and Levine also gives viewers a glimpse of what the future of social media in VR might look like beyond the realms of Facebook and Instagram—where people can hang out with their friends in VR rather than on their actual couch.
The adoption of VR has been slower than some expected, especially in a year that’s seen the technology make its way deeper into culture while companies spend more heavily to create VR experiences and other content for marketing, enterprise and entertainment.
According to a June report from IDC, shipments of virtual reality and augmented reality headsets globally were down 30.5 percent year-over-year with just 1.2 million units sold in the first quarter of 2018. However, the company predicts the market will speed up as more headsets untethered from smartphones and desktop companies enter the market. In fact, IDC expects the market for 2018 to increase to 8.9 million VR and AR headsets by the end of 2018 and to 65.9 million by 2022.
Of course, the Go isn’t the only VR headset Facebook is pushing. Next spring, Oculus plans to release the Oculus Quest, a slightly more expensive standalone headset that will cost $399 and allow the user to move around a room similarly to the flagship Rift headset, which is also rumored to get a second version at a later date. And while the Quest isn’t quite as powerful as the Rift, it will allow users to begin experiencing the “six degrees of freedom” that’s often a key feature of VR.
Oculus has also had its share of setbacks this year. Last month, Oculus co-founder Brendan Iribe left the company he helped create six years ago—departing just two years after co-founder Palmer Luckey.
Just a few weeks ago, Luckey himself wrote a blog post on his website discussing the reality of the VR market. He said that even if the tech were free, none of it is “good enough” to go mainstream. That’s not to say he doesn’t think there’s potential yet to come. He said VR is less about the total headsets sold, and more about how often people that have one engage with it.
“Network effects kick in, users buy and subscribe to deep libraries of content to keep themselves occupied, content developers make piles of money, and they use that money to develop better and broader content ad infinitum,” Luckey wrote. “In the end, hardware sales are a meaningless metric for the success of VR. They matter only as a means to an end, a foundation to enable the one thing that truly matters: Engagement. Engagement is all that matters. Engagement is Everything!”
VR is also a key area of growth for Facebook as a whole. At its Oculus developer conference this summer, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company has a goal of getting 1 billion people into VR, though it’s so far reached less than 1 percent of that target. (Along with the TV spots, Facebook has also been running digital out-of-home ads in key U.S. markets focused on increasing brand awareness.)
Asked if she’s surprised at how slow VR has been to catch on, Van Dyck said she’s not.
“This is a new human behavior,” she said. “So in a way this is behavior change work here.”