Can’t view the video properly? Try watching it on Youtube instead!

 

The future is now, my friends. You can speak face-to-face with somebody on the other side of the world; you can earn a PhD in your bedroom; and now you can test drive a Mercedes-Benz from the comfort of your own couch!

Yes, you read that correctly. RBM of Alpharetta came to Optimum Productions in early 2016 with a challenge to create a video marketing campaign that would connect them with customers in a more interactive way – and the result is a free, 360-degree test drive video so that customers can visualize the entire experience before they even pull into the dealership!

For those of you who haven’t had the chance to encounter 360-degree video, it is the latest and greatest in video and virtual reality technology – and in many cases is still in its early pioneering stage. However, it’s already fast-becoming the video medium of the future. Think of those giant iMax theatres: you know, with the curved screens that reach so far that they even cover your peripheral vision? Imagine a theatre where you sat in your seat and the movie was playing not just in front of you, but also BEHIND you! That is the magic of 360-degree video.

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There are already immersive experiences like front row seats for the opening of Broadway’s The Lion King, and a hilarious “Where’s Waldo?” hide-and-seek adventure. So when RBM of Alpharetta came to us to discuss their goal to create a new video marketing campaign, we realized – this is a perfect opportunity. Nobody has ever used 360-degree video for a test drive before, and it would be a great way to connect customers and web visitors with the dealership in a more personal and interactive way!

The project would also include plenty of new hurdles for our team, both in the production stage and in the release strategies of the video. Pre-production planning included technical specs, hardware, software, rigging, mounts, and a few preview test drives! It was essential that the team create a wide-reaching and strategic deployment plan for launching the video via both paid media and social media channels.

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We scripted and planned out pre-roll “teaser” ads that would invite viewers to click on the test drive and visit custom landing pages that are fully integrated into RBM’s home website. We also had to carefully select Key Performance Indicators for each medium and platform, to ensure the resulting analytics would be meaningful and drive the marketing benchmarks.

 

 

While half of us were planning the release and discussing how to integrate the campaign into multiple video platforms (since not all devices can play 360-degree video to its best advantage), the other half of our team was getting down and dirty with the 360-degree technology itself.

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360-degree videos use complex rigged cameras that point in every direction. After filming, specialized computer programs stitch the all of the footage together into one bizarre, fishbowl-esque video. If you try to look at the entire image at once, it’s like looking at the Chicago Cloud Gate. But these videos aren’t meant to be viewed like that: they’re actually meant to be wrapped into a sphere, and more and more online video players are developing the technology to do this. Then they give viewers the power to change the direction they’re looking, and voila! A full 360-degree view of the video as if you were there!

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Our challenge was to film a Mercedes-Benz test drive that would give viewers the ability to look around and have virtually the same experience as if they were actually sitting inside the car. Acquiring the equipment and calibrating all of the tests was a new adventure for our producers (as you can see, Jordan pulled out most of his hair and lost all self-respect by the end of it). But if there’s one thing we’re good at here at Optimum, it’s video technology.

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And not only did we film the 360-degree test drive – we also incorporated motion graphics into the video to point out the vehicle’s special features, and that’s another milestone in practically-uncharted territory!

But our adventure wasn’t finished there. Because 360-degree video is such a new technology, not all internet browsers or mobile devices use the same platforms to play it. That meant that we would need to release the test drive video by building customized, compatible landing pages; pages that could switch between our Wistia and our Youtube copy of the video, depending on what browser or device that the viewer was using, to ensure that each newcomer would receive the best viewing experience possible. All of those pages would then need to be shared through an entire social media campaign designed from scratch by our own team. After that, the process was all about strategic release; the video that was uploaded on Facebook alone has just passed the 5.7k mark!

The result is a great immersive and interactive sample of the RBM experience for Mercedes-Benz customers who are on the fence about visiting the Alpharetta dealership. People on computers can click and drag their mouse across the screen to maneuver through the video and see every angle of the car’s interior – and people watching on a phone or tablet can simply tilt the screen. The ultimate experience with 360-degree video is with a VR headset: these place your phone right in front of your face, so that the video moves whenever you turn your head!

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And this video with the GLE SUV is only the beginning. With 360-degree usage and virtual reality growing at an exponential rate, interactive test drives are the future of car shopping – perhaps ALL shopping… though I’m not sure that Amazon’s drones will be capable of delivering a vehicle to your driveway anytime soon.

Try out the test drive for yourself at 360.rbmofalpharetta.com, and then give us a call to learn how 360-degree video can be put to work for your business.