Cereal maker Post is the latest brand vaulting from two-dimensional marketing to 360-degree videos by launching their first virtual reality video as part of the “Yabba Dabba Do” campaign for Fruity Pebbles.

The marketing push—Post produced a 30-second pre-roll ad that runs on cross-platform apps VirtualSky and StartApp—mostly differentiates itself from the branded-VR ether because the cereal brand produced a deliberately guided immersive experience rather than the exploratory ones other companies have often pursued during the recent VR revolution. The video is also equipped with heat-tracking technology that indicates exactly which part of the experience consumers are focusing on the most.

Consumers are eating up everything VR-related. Earlier this year, Kellogg’s also capitalized on the fast-moving VR content train by unveiling a 360-degree experience featuring decorated swimmer Tom Shields ahead of the Rio Olympics.

[a]listdaily caught up with three of the creative forces for Post’s first foray into VR—Oliver Perez, senior brand manager for Pebbles Cereal, Brian Hurley, creative lead at Public Works and Andrew Klein, social experience and custom product innovation at MediaVest | Spark—to discuss its deliberately guided immersive experience.

Why was it critical for Post to begin marketing via virtual reality with Fruity Pebbles?

Oliver Perez, senior brand manager for Pebbles Cereal: We recently launched our “Yabba Dabba Do” campaign, which aims to ignite creativity and fosters the joy of childhood for kids and kids at heart. A bowl of Fruity Pebbles awakens the senses and provides a burst of energy in the morning, and we thought a VR execution would be a great way to bring that sensory overload experience to life. 

Brian Hurley, creative lead at Public Works: “Yabba Dabba Do” is all about tapping into the creativity and passion that surrounds Pebbles cereal. It’s an idea that constantly invites active participation with the brand. The 360-degree video is a fun, forward-thinking way to inspire fans and invite them to participate along with us.

What was the toughest challenge in the VR content creation and production process? What did you learn about VR along the way while putting the piece together? 

BH: First and foremost, there are very few established standards in the VR space. Unlike a typical broadcast production, where the steps to create a piece of content have been well established for years, shooting, editing and finishing a spot in 360-degree requires the team to invent new ways of working. Since the shot is being captured in the round, we can’t use any rigging or lighting the camera can see. Furthermore, we can’t be anywhere near camera, which creates an interesting dynamic between a director and our talent. And you can forget about seeing video playback on set, since it takes hours to stitch the footage together to review. Offline editorial also requires a new approach, since we’re making decisions in the round. What’s great about shooting 360-degree is we can splice different takes together into one scene, since so many cameras are involved. But that adds a lot more complexity to finding the right shots and pacing the cut. Much like an animation workflow, it usually takes many hours to render these decisions into a piece you can preview, which again adds more time to the process. All said, there are challenges, but it’s so much fun to explore this new format for creativity. These are the things that keep us up late at night and motivate us to come to work early—it’s the best part of working in this business.

Pebbles created an edited 30-second pre-roll spot featuring 360 visuals. Why does this work better than the longer storytelling format?

Andrew Klein, social experience and custom product innovation at MediaVest | Spark: A 30-second pre-roll allows us to tell an impactful brand message and be respectful to the audience who is initially planning to view another piece of VR content. The reasoning for the 30-second limit is due to the file size of the content that needs to be loaded into the experience. Anything over 30 seconds in high definition would require additional load time and that could potentially create a less than optimal experience because the viewer would need to wait for the content to download or buffer. That said, vendors such as VirtualSky and StartApp do offer 30-second pre-roll spots with the option to leave the current content and view longer form experiences.

BH: I’m not sure I’d say that pre-roll is generally more effective than creating a long-format experience, but for what we’re trying to accomplish, it’s the right decision. As we launch “Yabba Dabba Do” we need to be in the places where kids and kids at heart are exploring their own creativity. One of those places is definitely VR gaming. Simply put, we wanted to create content that can live in those experiences, instead of trying to compete with them. What’s been so crazy to our team has been how no other brands have tried this already. There was no inventory available for this approach from a media perspective earlier this year.

Why do you think brands are cautious to limiting themselves to shorter VR ads? Is your approach to the format a trend you see more marketers experimenting with?

OP: VR is still an emerging platform and as marketers, we’re still trying to understand the roll VR will play within our broader campaign. One challenge we faced as we were trafficking the spot is how much more difficult targeting is due to how early we are in the adoption cycle of the technology. I think as with any new technology, as this gains wider adoption, we as marketers need to be mindful of how this channel fits within our overall media mix.

How will you be using the data obtained from VirtualSky and StartApp to measure success and engagement? Can you explain the process?

AK: We are looking to see completed view rates and to utilize VR content heatmapping to understand where audiences are looking during the experience. As they see our content, is there a moment or action that draws the most attention during the experience? This data will help us optimize VR creative for future immersive campaigns.

Why is VR turning into such a powerful force in marketing? And do you plan on experimenting with augmented reality? 

AK: VR is currently the only medium that provides full audio and visual immersion, zero distraction and true viewability. Unless the viewer removes the headset, they are fully immersed in the brand experience and story. To-date, Mediavest|Spark is seeing significant increases in brand awareness, brand favorability and even purchase intent from audiences engaging with our client’s VR experiences.

BH: It’s the most immersive creative platform available to connect with consumers, and they already own the technology to bring it to life. It’s not a fad. We are excited to see where it takes us in the future.

OP: The days of VR are still early, especially as a marketing platform. The ability to transport consumers to any kind of experience is what makes this medium so attractive. We are excited to see how this technology continues to evolve.

How will Post continue to leverage interactive promotions in the future?

OP: VR is just one component of bringing our campaign to life. Pebbles is currently on tour with the Pebbles Play tour. We’re teaming up with environmentally sustainable toy company YOXO to inspire young inventors and encourage creativity using recycled materials at several creation stations at each tour stop. We have a replica of a Flintstones Flintmobile where fans can jump in and take a picture, as well as a VR station where they can experience our commercial. We are also sampling Pebbles marshmallow treats.

How is Post using social media, content and other storytelling tools to engage in new ways with consumers? What’s the strategy behind the “Yabba Dabba Do” campaign?

OP: Kids are still our primary target so we want to make sure we are developing fun and inspiring content for them. “Yabba Dabba” Do is all about capturing the spirit of fun and endless possibilities that exists in kids and kids at heart. Through our social channels we strive to reach new audiences and bring that same attitude, whether it’s a quick and simple Fruity Pebbles treat recipe mom can make at home, or giving dads ideas for projects they can make with their kids on a rainy day. We hope to inspire everyone to push the limits of their imagination.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan