Live Video Merged with VR will Turn Celebrities into 'Surrogates'

It costs over $100 to see a Toronto Maple Leafs game.

That doesn’t include parking, food, drinks, and souvenirs. Molson, Canada’s most popular beer company, saw the divide between the rich who could afford to go to the games and sit in the front row – seats that for most of Leafs history that would have been bought by diehard blue-collar fans.

That’s why Molson teamed up with Sportsnet, Canada’s leader in sports, to put hockey fans from coast to coast up against the glass with a cardboard virtual reality headset broadcasting a 360-live video feed on their mobile phone through the Sportsnet app. Fans could get their headset in specially-marked cases of Molson Canadian.

However, the marketing campaign went largely unrecognized as the digital revolution it was signaling.

VR with live video meant we as a society have essentially closed the gap between time and space. Where our future would be one of digital escapism for entertainment that goes beyond NSFW voyeurism, shedding our own bodies and stepping into someone else’s shoes or another time or place by simply scrolling through our social feeds.

Digital Escapism and Gen Z

Facebook launched a live video feature on August 15, 2015, to select celebrities to test out. It quickly gained traction when it was opened to all Facebook users to showcase their own day-in-the-life videos that would instantly be posted to their profiles as a new post. With Facebook Live, the idea that you needed high-quality productions to go viral was gone. The social network’s motive was clear – more content on the site means more opportunities for advertisement.

Twitter and Instagram have also introduced live video, going a step beyond Snapchat which only provides edited snippets layered into a story. This is how companies will market to millennials and Gen Z.

Born after 1994, Gen Z are the successor to Millennials and although the two generations are similar, there are some telling differences. Millennials are seen as “digital natives” because they grew up with the rise the internet and technology, while Gen Z grew up with advanced technology. The difference lies in how the two generations communicate through technology – Millennials communicate by text or voice, while Gen Z mostly use video or movies.

This preference for communicating through video is rooted in Gen Z’s comfortability with technology since a young age, while some commentators have suggested that growing up in the Great Recession has also given them a feeling of insecurity which can be curtailed through candid video. A striking difference between the two generations is that 77% of 12-17-year-olds owning a cellphone in 2015.

One key commonality with Millennials though is the onus of experiences over products.

When the Smartphone Dies

Sony, Google, and Samsung have filed patents for smart contact lenses that can record video and take pictures all controlled by the direction of your eyes. Google alone filed nine patent applications for digital lens in one week back in 2016. The lens would display information like data or advertisement through augmented reality.

The digital lens is likely to be introduced in the next decade as the successor to the smartphone. This will give celebrities and everyday people to monetize their life experiences.

In 2015, Kim Kardashian-West relaunched her website with a $2.99 charge for makeup tutorials with the main page asking for a user’s email, password, and credit card information. The subscription (with the first seven days free) also gives you access to her app, exclusive content – and most importantly: live streams.

A candid live stream of Kim Kardashian-West, arguably one of the most recognizable celebrities in the world, is the archetype of someone who could sell their life experiences with a paywall subscription for unfettered access. Kardashian-West’s app alone lured over a million subscriptions in its first week and so did her sister Kylie Jenner.

The possibilities for monetization for live VR still lies in traditional marketing, where you simply promote an event in order to attract new customers. For example, through automation on digital marketing platforms like Maropost Marketing Cloud, those most engaged with your personal brand would receive an email to cement the lead as a “loyal” and most likely an advocate of the benefits of being you for a day for the low price of $2.99/month.

Then there is the opportunities for futuristic marketing through layered data in the form of augmented reality allowing for native advertising. It could be something like this: Kim Kardashian is drinking a Coke and while she looks at the can, an ad pops up showing that 2L bottles of Coca-Cola are on sale in your area. This is marketing segmentation on a granular scale and maximizes a corporation’s profit margin.

Social and Psychological Impact of Virtual Reality

Studies on virtual reality have shown that it can affect our perception and actions. For example, by embodying a child through VR, you will perceive the world as a much bigger place. Another study found that a white person embodying a person of color performing a drumming task with a varied style than when the hands used in VR were white. This suggests a body-transfer illusion is capable of influencing how a person responds in different situations – and leads to new opportunities to spread social awareness.

VR can also influence a person’s heart rate which can trigger either anxiety or relaxation, suggesting this technology draws a deep emotional connection. Therefore, as we spend more and more time in a virtual space, the higher the likelihood of our cultural norms, economic activity, and worldview migrating with us.

So while older generations are likely to protest such sweeping changes in human interaction, entertainment, and society as a whole, there are far more members in the millennials generation, and even more in Gen Z.

This means the vote of favor belongs to the young who are just as stubborn about what they like as Baby Boomers.

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