We recently worked with World Vision Ireland, one of our clients, on a Virtual Reality Campaign that is taking four VR Videos around Ireland with a series of events, allowing people to experience an African child’s world through the use of Google VR Cardboard Headsets.

This particular 360 degree video demonstrates a child’s world in a classroom, showing how people’s support is making a difference.

The use of Virtual Reality by non-profit organizations is one of the new frontiers of fundraising, allowing donors to experience realities that are often far away and difficult to imagine. In turn, these experiences increase awareness, evoke empathy and are likely to prompt action.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise. Last week, Facebook published a new report, “Shifts for 2020: Multisensory Multipliers”, highlighting key trends in the use of new technologies and changes in media consumption. Key data about video technologies included the following:

  • By 2020, over 75% of the world’s mobile data traffic will be video
  • Among people surveyed in Nigeria, South Korea, the UK and US, 68% see VR becoming part of everyday life
  • 54% think VR will mean people never have to miss an important event
  • 51% are excited about VR as part of their shopping experience
  • Among people surveyed across the UAE and UK, 71% say their online video viewing has increased over the past year
  • People are 1.5x more likely to watch video daily on a smartphone than on a computer
  • People gaze 5.0x longer at video than static content across Facebook and Instagram

The non-profit sector seems to be at the forefront of harnessing new VR trends to enhance their communication with new and existing donors, and for some good reasons. A Nielsen study about the use of Virtual Reality and attitudes towards charities found that:

  • Potential adopters of virtual reality (PaVRs) are more likely to donate to a charity than non-PaVRs (57% vs 51%)
  • They are also are more likely to volunteer at a non-profit (43% vs 34%) and contact a government representative (22% vs 16%).
  • 84% of consumers were able to recall the charity brand after viewing a VR video.
  • 48% of users who viewed the VR content were likely to donate afterwards, versus 38% non-users
  • VR users were also likely to donate more[1]

Here’s some examples of charities who used virtual reality in their campaigns.

The Experience of Fetching Water

Last year a group of people gathered at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to experience a virtual reality movie showing Charity Water’s work in a small village in Ethiopia by documenting a week in the life of a 13-year-old girl, Selam, and her community as they receive clean and safe water for the first time.

Reportedly, the amount donated after the event greatly exceeded Charity Water’s expectations.[2]

One year after, in June, Oxfam Australia launched a virtual reality movie telling the story of 11 years old Evelin and her struggle to fetch water in the drought-declared Turkana county in northern Kenya[3]. The organization pushed the tech frontier even further, exploring new technologies like 3D printing, drones and internet of things sensors to help tackle problems in developing countries. [4]

In the Shoes of a Refugee

The International Rescue Committee used Virtual Reality to enable guests at their event experience the world of a refugee camp in Lebanon.

The multimedia news organization NPR reported that Gordon Meyer, director of marketing for YouVisit, which created the VR experience for the IRC, said: “The goal ultimately is that when you take the headset off, you have the inspiration to act in real life”.[5]

UN’s VR documentary Clouds over Sidra, about a 12-year-old Syrian refugee, was presented at a 2015 fundraising conference, helping raise $3.8 billion, over 70 percent more than projected[6]. The documentary also helped UN understand how VR encourages people to take action.

VR Video Promotion

Digital Marketing Platforms are also gearing up to allow advertisers use their VR content in video ads.

Facebook VRFacebook created a dedicated section for publishers to help them promote their 360 content.

“As 360 video continues to grow and engage millions of people on Facebook, we’re continually working to improve how 360 video is discovered in News Feed, the experience for users once they’ve engaged with a video, and finally the insights that video publishers receive, enabling them to keep experimenting with, and improving their 360 video content.”[7]

As part of these improvement, they introduced

  • a new gyroscope animation to tell users that the content is different
  • a helper animation to prompt users to move their phone and explore the scene
  • 360 Controls, to help publishers “edit the way your video appears in feed, and enable Guide to help your audience explore your video without missing any key moments.”
  • a heatmap tool that helps publishers understand which parts of the 360 video are watched the most by viewers

In an experiment, Google tested users’ engagement with 360 video ads versus traditional videos, by creating two campaigns in TrueView, YouTube’s choice-based ad format. They found that while 360 video ads didn’t overperform on traditional viewers metrics, they did motivate viewers to watch more and interact, showing higher Click-Through-Rates, and they also drove users to share, subscribe or view other videos.

While native content, or sponsored content, has become an established digital marketing strategy, videos and virtual reality contents are increasingly being used in published sponsored content as a way to generate interest and engage relevant target audience.

[1] https://www.rapidtvnews.com/2017052147303/vr-adopters-more-amenable-to-charity-ads.html#axzz4lOMfEryG
[2] http://www.adweek.com/digital/how-virtual-reality-inspiring-donors-dig-deep-charitable-causes-171641/
[3] https://probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2017/06/charity-uses-virtual-reality-film-take-fundraising-next-level/
[4] http://www.afr.com/technology/oxfam-launches-vr-film-trials-3d-printing-and-sensor-tech-20170613-gwqmru
[5] http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2017/01/09/508617333/can-virtual-reality-make-you-more-empathetic
[6] https://www.theverge.com/2016/9/19/12933874/unvr-clouds-over-sidra-film-app-launch
[7] https://www.facebook.com/facebookmedia/get-started/discovery-tools-insights?__mref=message_bubble

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Colm Lynam

Colm Lynam

Director at Combined Media
Colm is managing director at Combined Media
Colm Lynam