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USA Today launches branded VR news show with a 360° video ad.

Gannett, the publisher of USA Today, finally released their first episode of its weekly VR news show VRtually There on Thursday. It’s what you might expect for 360 video news segment, letting you take off from the USS Eisenhower carrier, slackline in Arizona, and fly high in a hot air balloon for New Mexico’s annual festival.

But sandwiched in the eight-minute long VR episode is a 15-second ad for the 2017 Toyota Camry.

USA Today is calling the VR ad unit a “cubemercial,” in what they say is the industry’s first-ever VR ad unit created specifically for the medium. Whether “cubemercial” will ever stick as a word in the immersive advertising world, the publisher is hoping to build an ad standard in VR.

The “cubemercial” ad places you within a giant virtual room—hence, the “cube” name—with content featured on each of its walls. You can turn your head to view the different sides of each wall and also see different angles of the car.

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Its really not what we would hope from a 360° video ad, which is more like a 360 banner ad than an immersive experience. But that’s probably the point — the Camry “cubemercial” will appear in the first two episodes of VRtually There, with other advertisers coming on board in future episodes. The ad unit is probably simple on purpose — to allow for rotating advertisers out on a weekly basis.

Advertisers will be provided with some metrics like views with sound and whether the unit was watched in VR mode. But what will really be valuable for advertisers are features like a “guide mode” and heatmaps that Facebook has already implemented on their platform.

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The weekly VR series airs Thursdays at 2 p.m. EST and kicks off with this first episode created in partnership with YouTube and launch sponsor, Toyota. For every weekly episode of VRtually There, you can expect a first-person perspective of three original content segments. The segments are filmed and produced by USA Today Network journalists across the U.S. and are available via the USA TODAY app, within the VR Stories app and VRtually There’s YouTube channel (YouTube has exclusivity on the content for the first sixty days after each release).

USA today has also hired David Hamlin, an Emmy-awarded producer and director, to be the executive producer for VRtually There. He will be responsible for the show’s editorial direction and original content. Hamlin joins the team from National Geographic, and has created over 100 award-winning specials, series, and new media projects for the National Geographic Channel, NBC, TBS, PBS, other global broadcasters and NGOs.

About the Scout

Jonathan Nafarrete

Jonathan Nafarrete is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of VRScout.

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