This Horror Movie’s Campaign Shows How VR Can Affect Your Body

Lionsgate's Jigsaw boosted heart rate, sweating and smiling

Jigsaw had a physical effect on VR viewers. Lionsgate
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For better or worse, virtual reality can cause physical reactions in consumers. At its best, VR is billed as an immersive format that puts users at the center of 360 videos. And at its worst, VR can make viewers well, nauseated.

So when Unity Technologies worked with Lionsgate in October to create a promo for the horror film Jigsaw, the team decided to track how the film impacted everything from heart rate to sweating and smiling.

“In a place like VR, there are so few metrics out there so we wanted to make sure that metrics were a core part of this strategy,” said Agatha Bochenek, head of mobile and VR/AR advertising at Unity Technologies.

First, Unity ran a two-week campaign promoting the trailer in two VR apps: the Samsung Internet for VR app and the Spiraloid’s comic book app Nanite Fulcrum. The experience drops viewers off in a creepy room where they have to pull virtual levers to escape so that they can walk around and see scenes from the film before ending up in a room where the trailer plays on a large screen.

The firm then worked with Isobar’s Mindsight Technology service to run a small study to place sensors on 16 people in a lab to see how they responded to the VR experience. Each person viewed both the mobile trailer and engaged with the VR content while hooked up to sensors and trackers that measure their heart rate, sweating and muscle activation.

While the group of people tracked was small, the stats should give marketers a sense of how their ads resonate with viewers.

Per Isobar’s research, the people who went through the entire VR experience reported a 24 percent spike in heart rates and had 44 percent more peaks in sweating per minute compared to their stats while they watched the mobile trailer. Moreover, the consumers who watched the VR campaign smiled three times as much as when they watched the mobile trailer.

“We were able to actually prove out a lot of the fact that we think VR is emotional,” Bochenek said. “We actually see the amount of impact that it has and the difference that it has as compared to a traditional ad like a trailer.”

In addition to the biometric data, Isobar also ran an online survey asking consumers for their reactions to the ads. Unity also reports that the VR campaign reached 175,000 users in 14 days with 13.5 percent choosing to interact with Jigsaw’s ad. All told, the campaign generated a 70 percent completion rate and the average user played it 1.6 times.

“Hopefully this can become a replicable format for other advertisers and brands that are trying to dabble in this space,” explained Bochenek.

@laurenjohnson Lauren Johnson is a senior technology editor for Adweek, where she specializes in covering mobile, social platforms and emerging tech.