360 Video

As virtual reality videos have taken the Internet by storm, another form of media has emerged somewhat more quietly as a marketing tool—360 video.

360 video allows viewers to explore different angles of video footage. On a desktop, that happens by “dragging” the video scene with the cursor to the desired perspective. On a mobile device, the viewing is more natural: The video works with the device’s gyroscope technology, so 360 video viewers simply turn their device to view different angles of the video.

360 videos act as the perfect complement to virtual reality videos. In fact, some marketers have released a 360 video version of their virtual reality features. Both types of video are shot with the same type of camera, or camera setup, but 360 videos can be viewed and interacted with free of the need for a virtual reality headset.

The Market for 360 Videos

YouTube was the first to latch on to 360 video technology, announcing in early 2015 that they would support the uploading and viewing of 360 videos. Since then, more than 700,000 videos have been uploaded to YouTube’s 360 video channel. Facebook announced it would follow the 360 video trend in late 2015, allowing 360 videos to be posted and viewed directly from users’ newsfeeds. Flickr and Apple TV have followed suit.

Those sites alone bring a huge audience for 360 degree videos. Both Facebook and YouTube each boast an estimated 8 billion video views daily. Another stat that bodes well for 360 video: Roughly half of online videos are watched on a smartphone or tablet, both of which integrate perfectly with 360 video.

With so many online videos available and being watched, 360 video has the opportunity to stand out and catch on. 360 video allows viewers to interact with the content as they watch the video. A car commercial shot in 360 video allows the viewer to move his or her phone or tablet to explore all angles of the car’s interior. 360 video of a sporting event allows viewers to follow action and take in the entire atmosphere within the arena.

Early Adopters of 360 Videos

Major brands have been quick to make 360 videos. BMW, Audi, Coca-Cola, Disney, and Bud Light all have marketed 360 video commercials. Target created 360 videos that allowed viewers to click to purchase the items showcased within the videos. Movie studios have used 360 videos to market new releases, with Disney helping Facebook launch its 360 video capabilities with a 360 video promoting “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

While there has been speculation on major sporting events being shot in 360 video, sports teams and events have been testing the waters with 360 videos of practices and pre-game events. The Sacramento Kings placed a 360 video camera courtside during a pre-game warmup session and posted the video online. CBS took a similar route at the Army-Navy football game, shooting 360 video of pre-game events from the sidelines. The New Orleans Saints shot a “behind-the-scenes" pre-game video to post online. Showtime embraced 360 video recently, offering a ring-side 360 view of a boxing match. 360 video cameras have been placed atop skiers’ heads and on surf boards to help bring the sports to life.

There also has been some experimentation with 360 video for entertainment purposes. “Saturday Night Live” posted a front-row 360 video of a portion of its 40th anniversary special. On YouTube, Google has posted the “Spotlight Series” cartoon, 360 animated videos that allow viewers to make decisions and influence the plot of the shows. Several musicians, including Bjork and hip-hop artist M-Dot, have created 360 music videos.

Mainstream 360 Video

While much of the 360 video content generated thus far has been meant to dazzle, the medium is expected to go mainstream as an affordable array of 360 video cameras hit the market and more companies experiment with 360 video marketing.

With billions of people watching online videos via mobile devices that interact easily with the technology, 360 video makes sense for marketers. It allows viewers to interact with and explore products and entertainment in a way that was never before possible. As more companies turn to 360 video marketing, consumers are going to come to expect the luxury of examining a product, location or event up close via 360 video as they make purchasing decisions.