Qantas set to push more marketing budget to virtual reality as a new channel for consumers

Qantas is set to sink more of its marketing budget into virtual reality (VR) projects and is eyeing the technology as a new channel to reach consumers, the airline’s digital advisor has said.

Rapid VRs Dave Klaiber demonstrates the interactive video dome

Speaking on a panel at SXSW in Austin, Texas, David Murray, digital adviser for Qantas, said trials of the technology in campaigns and in flight had gotten good feedback from customers and led to deep engagement with its tourism content, driving more sales.

He said: “Going forward we’re quite excited about making VR an actual marketing channel in its own right. There are a lot of people who got excited about VR in marketing 10 of 15 years ago, but I honestly think VR is almost a new marketing platform.

“Whether it be in-app, with push notifications, or just something more shareable.”

Murray was on a panel with production company Rapid VR talking about the future of tourism marketing, and showcasing the 360 video Rapid made for Hamilton Island and the airline last year.

Of that campaign Murray said: “We were so confident in VR as an innovation in terms of demanding publicity and marking power that we used the content as a vehicle to market new routes and new fares.

“The innovation is the marketing. People would look at this content not because they wanted to go to Hamilton island but because it’s VR. We got some really fantastic results out of this content purely because it was VR. Of course we used other channels as well but VR as an innovation really was the driving force behind it.”

Fellow panelist and Rapid VR founder Dave Klaiber said that campaign had worked because it wasn’t just a traditional “montage” of nice vistas, but had a “human element” by following a couple’s journey.

But he warned of the future of VR: “There’s a lot of crap out there – if you show someone a really bad VR video for the first time you’ve lost them. That’s important and we’ve tried to push ourselves to the limits in how we shoot and build rigs.”

Rapid also showcased an interactive dome which allows people to play with 360 video content without having to use a headset, which they said opened up more possibilities for the technology.

While Murray admitted VR “wasn’t initially a natural fit” for the company he said there were a lot of applications for the emerging technology for the airline, highlighting “experience marketing” as a real opportunity for Qantas.

“It’s a new marketing channel to allow the business itself to market the destination and network,” he added.

“Also it’s a win-win for the customer as well as they can find out what they are going to experience. And you’ll find price will never be part of that equation which is really exciting for Qantas of course.”

The panel (l-r): Susannah DiLallo, founder of Rapid VR; David Murray, Qantas; Dave Klaiber, founder Rapid VR; Dan White, chief technology officer, Rapid VR

The panel (l-r): Susannah DiLallo, founder of Rapid VR; David Murray, Qantas; Dave Klaiber, founder Rapid VR; Dan White, chief technology officer, Rapid VR

Last year the company put VR headsets in its First Class lounges and to First Class passengers on planes to trial their reaction to the content, which he said could help people with a phobia of flying, help them navigate the airport more easily, or simply forget they were sitting on an airplane for hours.

He added: “The Results from VR executions last year have been really exciting: 42% of people who experienced VR in the first class lounges rated it nine and greater out of ten; 60% who experienced if in flight gave it an eight or higher out of ten.

“With our app in the Oculus store we’ve had 35,000 downloads which may not sound like a lot, but the Oculus consumer device is still quite new, it launched in December. We’re up to something like 3,000 hours watched in that app, and the clip only goes for six or seven minutes.”

Alex Hayes in Austin

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