Data-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by My N. Tran, chief product officer at ADVR.


The most common use case for virtual reality (VR) today is showing our friends how cool it is, which, as a VR enthusiast, is equal parts hilarious and disappointing.

While VR has not yet gone mainstream with experiences like our favorite sci-fi movies, I urge the ad tech industry to value VR for its strengths and not for its “lack of weaknesses.” VR as an industry and medium is imperfect. However, if we look at VR’s strength as a measurement tool, it is an unprecedented data environment that might be the answer to helping us create better 2-D content.

Could testing our ad creatives in VR help us create better and more inspired and engaging 2-D digital content? I think the answer is yes. As it stands, the typical workflow means we labor over our creatives only to wait for data to be crunched and analyzed so it can then tell us how to make our designs better. But are our current tools and methods actually helping us make better products and experiences?

I know that empirically designing to data is effective. While existing tools and methods are delivering results, I am not convinced our tools are delivering the absolute best results. As of now, designing to data relies on too many contaminated factors, such as how the data is mined, how informed your team is about the product, how skilled your team is at analysis, how your team approaches hard questions and what action should be taken post-analysis – all of which are prone to human error and biases.

For now, we have to work with the tools we have and continue to perfect our current workflow. However, if we look to what I hope is the near future, VR opens up a new field of data gathering, through which we can reduce unknown variables and gain precise insight that could help us design for better experiences.

To be sure, conducting user feedback in VR requires a new set of standards and practices.  Putting that aside, there are several strengths I see in VR as a measurement tool. When test subjects are in VR, they learn about products in an environment that is isolated from another person’s ideas, suggestions and prompts. Because the testers’ senses are connected to the experience being presented, they are free to explore, look wherever they want and do whatever they desire.

Technical advances in eye tracking also make it possible to know exactly when and where the tester is looking to inform which parts of the narrative elicited a positive or negative response. With feedback this granular, creative teams can focus on improving unsuccessful scenes and creating more of the successful scenes that people enjoy.

That is not to say existing tools do not empower us to do much of this already, but to be honest, the steps along the way to an actionable item are tricky, leading many creatives to feel creativity has taken a back seat to data-driven designs. Having been there myself, I empathize with the creatives’ struggle to design and execute on direction that is contaminated with human biases. It’s not breaking news. We know this kind of friction burns through company resources, and in the end, it creates uninspired content and campaigns.

Every brand’s goal is to deliver value to its customers while also being exciting and different from competitors. Creative teams are capable of finding unconventional and creative solutions while meeting business goals, but for teams to achieve this ideal, they need to come to an actionable plan based on customer feedback that is pure. I encourage marketing and ad tech leaders to explore how using data derived from VR should be implemented in the production pipeline.

With this level of technological advantage, wouldn’t it be embarrassing to settle for lazy compromises when we have a chance to evolve data-driven design to the next stage?

Follow My N. Tran (@mynrtran), ADVR (@advrinc) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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