“Inside” The Apartment at SapientNitro

According to eMarketer, advertisers will spend over $100 billion on mobile this year, representing “roughly 50 percent of all digital ad expenditure.” That figure is expected to double over the next three years, reaching $195.55 billion in 2019 and accounting for 70.1% of all digital ad spend. And as a friendly reminder, the mobile advertising industry is just twenty years old.

Given the staggering growth in the market, nearly every agency in the world needs to be a mobile expert in order to survive. However, on top of that pursuit, one Chicago agency is also proactively working to build its expertise in the medium that it expects to one day supplant mobile – virtual reality.

This week, SapientNitro’s Chicago office demoed the work that it’s doing across a variety of VR headsets, including Google Cardboard, Gear VR, and Oculus. Though the agency is exploring a handful of VR projects with its clients, they’re currently focused on simply familiarizing themselves with and mastering the technology.

“If you’re not building, you’re not an expert,” says Zachary Jean Paradis, SapientNitro Chicago’s Director of Innovation Strategy. “So we’re building VR environments.”

For example, SapientNitro has built The Apartment, a virtual reality environment simulated after a SoHo boutique retail store. When “inside” the detailed virtual realm, individuals can discover and learn about new items and furniture in a hip, inviting setting, as well as add products directly to a shopping cart. The Apartment is designed to be an immersive shopping experience and showcase the opportunities within VR for SapientNitro’s clients.

“It’s important for us to identify emerging categories and invest heavily in them,” adds Jean Paradis.

SapientNitro believes that virtual reality is the next “new mass industry” for a couple reasons. First, the industry now has accessible, affordable production systems, like the Nokia OZO and GoPro’s VR rig, enabling people to more easily create virtual reality content. Second, the market is about to be flooded with a variety of consumer headsets within the next year, including the Oculus Rift and the PlayStation VR. And third, publishers, brands, and studios are committing to the space.

“From Disney with the Star Wars trailer to Apple Music, you’re seeing some of the biggest companies in the world lining up to make it in virtual reality.”

And that’s exactly why SapientNitro is hustling to get ahead of the curve. Earlier this year, the agency announced a partnership with Sixsense, a leading VR tech platform. Together, they’ve worked on a number of environments, including a virtual showroom for women’s shoes. At SapientNitro’s demo, they showed off another virtual space that allowed users to play with and test consumer drones.

For SapientNitro, the aim is to turn themselves into experts, rather than waiting for the expertise to come to them. (In a similar vein, the agency has transformed their Chicago office into a lab for instrumented intelligence in order to learn how brands can use data that’s gathered from sensors). In other words, SapientNitro expects virtual reality “to be huge” and they want to be experts before their clients come to that realization, too.

“A lot of big brands got caught flat-footed with the web and mobile,” says Jean Paradis. “Nobody wants that to happen again and that’s why they’ll be paying attention to virtual reality.”

(Image via SapientNitro and YouTube)