Samsung Wishes You a Happy Virtual Holiday With Gear VR Ads and Experiences

Passing on the 'feels'

Headshot of Angela Natividad

Finally, here's a holiday ad where people aren't pretending to like the gifts they're given! There's just one catch: We really can't tell what's getting them all so wound up.

Samsung is hoping to create what it calls "a new holiday tradition" with a campaign called "The Gift of Galaxy," which celebrates experiences both delightful and immersive. If you've followed Samsung's many VR-related ads this year, you won't be all that surprised at what this gift entails. 

A national TV spot kicks the work off.

Titled "Unwrap the Feels," it features families offering Samsung Gear VR headsets to family members, who enthuse, clip their phones in and experience a whole roller-coaster of emotions while others watch, pleased as punch. 

There is terror. There is joy. There are tears! Could they all be watching the same thing? Maybe they're overcoming their fear of heights.

The work feels like an effort to push VR to the mainstream, amid growing concern that companies are overinvesting in a market that's still a bit too green. With help from "The Gift of Galaxy," Samsung hopes to boost its prospects. From Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, people who buy a Galaxy S7 Edge or a Galaxy S7 will also score a Gear VR gift pack, which includes an Oculus bonus—making this ad a potential reality. 

The blue boxes you see are also key to the marketing. The brand's New York flagship store, Samsung 837, will be converted into a giant blue box from tomorrow to New Year's Day, to make blue boxes "synonymous with a magical gift-giving experience." Visitors can attend events and win prizes, and an additional VR experience—Samsung's version of Santa's sleigh ride—will also be unveiled.

Since all that unpleasantness about exploding Galaxy Note 7 batteries, Samsung's seen negative social chatter jump 187 percent. To its credit, "The Gift of Galaxy" shows it's not shying away from either the tarnished brand name or its aggressive tech-forward positioning. This year, in addition to going all-in on VR, it's impressively championed smart devices (like motorcycle windshields and surfboards) and 360 video, and made promising partnerships with everyone from Viceland to makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury.

The brand is well on its way to both overcoming an ugly setback and defining itself as a leader in VR and connected devices. But until VR effectively resolves its tricky content problem (among other challenges, like lack of platform agnosticity, bulkiness, cost, wires and just generally looking awfully complicated), Grandpa probably isn't taking that blue box back out after Christmas.

@luckthelady Angela Natividad is a frequent contributor to Adweek's creativity blog, AdFreak. She is also the author of Generation Creation and co-founder of Hurrah, an esports agency. She lives in Paris and when she isn't writing, she can be found picking food off your plate.