Hilton checks in virtual reality push via 360-degree video experience

Hilton Hotels & Resorts is one of the first hospitality marketers to leverage 360-degree video in an ad unit that enables consumers to tilt or rotate their smartphones as they are immersed in a virtual visit to the chain's Barbados resort.

Hilton has teamed up with Opera Mediaworks and agency partner OMD to roll out the mobile-first campaign, which brings individuals on a virtual vacation to the hotel chain's Barbados property. As more brands begin experimenting with 360-degree video, the hospitality industry is likely to adopt the technology quickly, due to its ability to allow travelers to discover new places, tour various resorts and take an interactive journey to a potential destination for their next trip.

?This is the first mobile video campaign we have embarked on for Hilton Hotels & Resorts as part of our larger brand initiative, Our Stage. Your Story, which is all about reminding audiences why they should travel and helping them turn their travel dreams into reality,? said Mary Beth Parks, senior vice president of global brand marketing at Hilton Worldwide.

?In this 360-degree video, we not only wanted to create a fully immersive experience of one of our beautiful hotels, Hilton Barbados Resort, but create a new avenue for travelers to instantly book their dream trip ? our video includes an end card that is directly integrated with Hilton.com's booking system so that if viewers are inspired to book their next vacation, they can do so in that moment.?

A mobile launchpad
Hilton?s 360-degree video, which can be accessed via Hilton Hotels & Resorts? Facebook page, enables consumers to use their smartphones as a personal steering device by tilting or rotating the screen to fully explore the virtual location.

Individuals will be taken on a two-minute tour of Hilton's Barbados resort, featuring panoramic views of the beach, pool, ocean and hotel property.

The tour includes a voiceover informing consumers that the campaign is more than a video; it is a launchpad on which they may discover new places, create their own story and experience unique adventures.

Individuals can then choose a sequence of stages for their personal virtual reality experience, such as gazing at the ocean from inside a cave, brushing past thick ferns during a nature walk and looking down at the beach from a hotel room balcony.

The brand hopes that vacation-goers will glean some inspiration from the video and perhaps book a stay at the Hilton Barbados resort ? or any of its properties in tropical locations.

Hilton is one of the first hotel marketers to leverage this advertising tactic, giving it a strong leg up on competitors by effectively connecting with mobile-savvy travelers.

This marks the first time a major chain has introduced a 360-degree video campaign tapping into Opera Mediaworks? entire network of mobile publishers.

360 on the rise
The technology that 360-degree video uses lets individuals enjoy a more immersive experience by tilting or rotating their smartphone, instead of tapping or swiping to move onto the next scene. Although this has been popular with marketers in a slew of other industries ? including automotive and entertainment ? Hilton?s use of 360-degree video showcases the lucrative marketing potential available to other brands in the tourism sector.

Consumers who are on the fence about booking a trip to Hilton?s Barbados resort could easily be swayed to make a decision upon watching the video and picturing themselves in the variety of settings shown.

If other hotel brands hop on the 360-degree video bandwagon, travelers will have additional opportunities to explore a hotel property, its guestrooms and the surrounding areas without having to rely solely on promotional Web site photos.

The technology has already proven to fuel excitement among consumers, as evidenced by HBO?s usage of it several weeks ago.

HBO?s Game of Thrones built fan excitement ahead of its season six premiere by inviting Facebook users to explore the fictional world of Westeros by using their finger to swivel around a 360-degree video of the program?s opening credits (see story).

Nevertheless, Hilton is likely to see an uptick in brand awareness and positive sentiment following the rollout, especially as the video builds on the brand?s previous mobile initiatives, which incite travelers to conjure up dream vacation scenarios.

In March, Hilton Worldwide inspired travel enthusiasts to realize their fantasy vacations by introducing a mobile-optimized microsite where visitors could create digital vision boards and share them with friends via social media (see story).

?We're incredibly excited about 360-degree video capabilities ? simply put, there's no comparable technology out there right now that creates the same type of immersive experience our guests are looking for as they plan their next trip and that will drive them to book their dream vacation right then and there,? Ms. Parks said.