Comment - Have Beverages Entered a New Age of Virtual Advertising?
The camera soars low over fields of spiked agave plants, past workers toiling under the hot Mexican sun. You turn your head as you drift into the hold of a truck. Suddenly you're in a bustling Tequila distillery, dipping under a two-tonne agave-crusher and through to a cask-filled warehouse. Now it's a hacienda, with cool fountains and immaculate lawns - the chatter of guests fills your ears as you glide by. You look back and see the hacienda again, lit by the peach glow of a slow Mexican evening.
No, this is not last night's dream. It's the latest marketing campaign from Patron Tequila - an incredibly immersive virtual reality tour of its Tequila distillery in Mexico's Jalisco highlands. The company, with the help of New York digital marketing agency Firstborn and a camera-laden drone, has created a 360-degree video fly-by of the Hacienda Patrón that will sink the consumer into the sights and sounds of the Tequila distillery.
After watching it yesterday in an office on New York's Park Avenue while wearing headphones and wraparound goggles, I can testify that it is a singular and exhilarating experience.
It's not the first VR video Firstborn has created for a beverage company - the company handles marketing for PepsiCo's Mountain Dew brand and last year launched Dew VR Skate, which put viewers in the middle of a skatepark.
"We got a flood of offers in from clients after the Mountain Dew project," Firstborn producer Laura Rosenblatt told just-drinks yesterday. "It was very popular - companies are becoming very interested in what this technology can do for them."
But, the Patron campaign builds on the Mountain Dew ads by mixing computer graphics with live-action footage for the first time. Suddenly, the possibilities are endless, particularly for alcohol companies such as Patron, who want to show consumers the craft that goes into making their products.
"If you are looking to educate people about the artisinal process, then the best way to do that is to take them on a virtual tour," Rosenblatt said. "That way, you can show them the craft."
Patron will launch its new campaign in Zachys Wine & Liquor Store in Scarsdale, New York on 5 May to coincide with Cinco de Mayo. But, there are plans to take it elsewhere in the US, reaching consumers in Florida and California. Bar managers and bar tenders will also strap on the goggles to give them an insight into where the Tequila comes from, Patron said.
The company is unlikely to stop there. Think activations at airports where consumers can be whisked to tropical beaches or misty Scottish glens faster than any airplane. Or cramped bars that suddenly become hangar-sized nightclubs.
Better still, the technology used to project the video is relatively inexpensive. It can be viewed on the Oculus Rift headset, while the equipment I used was, at heart, a Samsung smart phone strapped to my face. And as the technology improves, the image will become sharper and even more immersive.
This is a leap forward in interactive advertising. What's even more exciting is that this is just the beginning.
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