Book Masterclass

How to Decide When Virtual Reality Is Right for Native Ads

Sep 13, 2016

Be transported to Mecca, Islam’s holiest site, experience firsthand the battles Iraqi forces endured to retake Falluja from ISIS or relive some of the most unforgettable moments from the Olympic games. These are some of the editorial examples of Virtual Reality stories created by the New York Times.

The possibilities of VR seem infinite these years. Goldman Sachs projects that VR could become an $80 billion market by 2025 and research shows that audiences have an 80% retention rate from VR experiences a year after having the experience, versus 20% retention with merely reading content, as Tobi Elkin of MediaPost’s Native Insider writes. At Cannes Lions this year, The New York Times even won the Grand Prix for its VR app that incorporates stories from the Times as well as material from GE and Mini.

We talked to Michael Villaseñor, speaker of Native Advertising Days 2016 and Creative Director, Marketing & Innovation at The New York Times. His team won multiple awards for their work on features such as NYTVR (virtual reality), “Plan Your Next Adventure” (a mash up of The Times' “36 Hours” series and Google Maps), and creation of mobile-first native ad formats.

When do you think VR is the right way to go for a publisher and a brand - and when is it not?

Given the immersive nature of VR, I think there is a relatively strong indication at the outset of a story that would determine whether VR or another mode of storytelling is preferred. I consider it another storytelling mechanism in the editor's toolbox. The emphasis should always be on what is the strongest storytelling platform given the topic and multimedia surrounding it.

How do you convince advertisers to try out VR and to invest in it?

It's less about convincing advertisers to use it but more about discovering the compelling story that could only be experienced through the VR platform.

How do you measure and justify ROI for virtual reality campaigns?

We enable a wide range of metrics to give the advertiser the fullest story around the engagement.

The novelty of VR is already wearing thin, according to some sources - is it the novelty of the technology rather than what it can add to the content that is driving the interest in VR?

I think the proliferation of the hardware will help propel the enjoyment of it, however we need to mind the barrier of entry and allow 360 and VR content to be enjoyed as widely as possible on as many platforms as possible.

Labelling is a big issue in native advertising - how do you work with labelling in VR?

Our team takes labeling very seriously, we conduct both qualitative and quantitative testing around labeling. That said, as in the case of NYTVR we felt that by limiting advertising integration to only VR films we created a higher quality experience for both our readers and advertisers. Labeling should always occur before the content so that the reader is able to discern for themselves whether they would like to engage or not.

What is the future of VR in publishing as you see it?

Come visit the Native Advertising Days to learn more.

Join us at the Native Advertising DAYS 2016 Conference, November 16th and 17th you will meet inspirational speakers from companies such as Google, The New York Times and Linkedin who will be sharing their insights with us on stage. Moreover, you will be introduced to many more native advertising experts throughout the conference. To learn more about the #NativeDAYS16 conference, go to

Sign up for the Native Advertising Institute Newsletter and get the best insights from the people who live and breath native advertising. 

Photo credit: By Haxorjoe - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

New call-to-action

Be a Native Advertising Hero - Sign Up for Our Newsletter

Join +10,000 peers and become part of the growing native advertising community.

No Comments Yet

Let us know what you think