While network television still commands the attention of millions, streaming services recently outpaced viewership for over-the-air and cable broadcasts. Now networks—and the brands that rely on them—are ramping up their creativity and finding new ways to draw viewers back to “old TV” with immersive advertising.

Why Immersive Advertising Wins The Battle For Consumer Attention

Immersive advertising might not seem like an obvious choice for TV network marketers, but the numbers are impressive. A recent survey by Ericsson Emodo found that approximately 75 percent of consumers are more likely to pay attention to ads that feature immersive or augmented reality components, while 70 percent actually expressed an interest in experiencing more ads with AR elements.

Those stats are pretty incredible when you reread that last line. Consumers actually want more ads—and they might turn those ad blockers off to get at them.

Why? Because immersive ads are like games; they’re permission-based excursions that pull the consumer out of the moment and to someplace unexpected. That temporary flight away from the ordinary can be just as valuable as a more costly campaign that consumers might simply tune out because they see hundreds every week.

What Brands Are Doing To Leverage Immersive Experiences

Big brands like Gucci, Ikea and Sephora were among the pioneers of AR and immersive ads targeted at retail consumers, but streaming services have also launched new and immersive experiences to keep viewers connected when offline.

Having spent so much time indoors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers want to be outside. And for those who work from home, disconnecting from devices as much as possible is essential. So streamers are bringing the digital outdoors in unexpected ways. For example, Netflix rolled out a series of innovative AR and immersive ads for “Bridgerton” and “Stranger Things” with elements that got consumers off their couches and into new venues and spaces. A London “Stranger Things” scavenger hunt used actors, AR and mobile messaging to encourage fans to stay out and about over a period of days.

Immersion is not just a nice-to-have for advertisers with an already much-loved content product—it can be key for delivering challenging or complex brand messaging, as it captures people’s attention in an all-consuming way. Live event immersive advertising adds a powerful punch to AR-enabled campaigns because consumers are actively engaged with an ad for an extended period of time—usually because they are drawn to a unique experience. That means there’s no multitasking or distractions to pull their attention away from brand content. There’s another benefit to immersive outdoor campaigns: Fun experiences often translate into positive brand associations.

Why Network And Cable TV Are Turning To Immersive Experiences

While HBO used an immersive experience to promote “House of the Dragon” at San Diego Comic-Con earlier this year, free-to-air broadcasters are also looking at immersive campaigns as a way of reentering consumers’ crowded screens and staying top-of-mind.

Recently, NBC promoted the revival of its 1980’s hit “Quantum Leap” with an immersive drive-thru experience in Los Angeles that offered drivers the opportunity to fill up their tanks for 91 cents a gallon, as well as buy a movie ticket for under $4 with a special code from Fandango. While the event offered fans some retro fun, it also delivered a brand message about the appeal of outdoor activities that don’t involve digital technology—a unique conversation starter for young audiences who might have become aware of all that cool ’80s stuff from watching “Stranger Things.” Immersive experiences also create brand ambassadors organically, as attendees share photos from these events with friends and family even when they would never share an ad.

Immersive advertising is powerful because it gives consumers the choice to interact and rewards those who do with unique experiences that feel like entertainment and not a sales pitch.

With consumers becoming overwhelmed at the sheer volume of content out there, marketers need to stay memorable. That means inspiring consumers to engage because they feel an affinity to the brand or the content produced by reintroducing themselves—perhaps in person.