Co-Founder and Owner
Global Brand Manager
To create buzz about St. Giles Hotel, marketing agency Piranha wanted to use virtual reality (VR) and user-generated video. Piranha put 360-degree cameras into guests’ hands and encouraged them to shoot videos of the cities they were visiting. Piranha’s Rob Sabatini, co-founder and owner, and Venicia Gaul, global brand manager, spoke with eMarketer’s Maria Minsker about the project and their plans to edit the videos for an upcoming marketing campaign.
eMarketer: How did your virtual reality campaign for St. Giles Hotel come to be?
Rob Sabatini: We were looking for a message that would reinforce the core brand values of St. Giles Hotel. We wanted to show how St. Giles Hotel effortlessly connects guests to the city they’re in, and we decided the best way to do this is to let guests see it through their own eyes.
This is where 360-degree cameras and virtual reality came into play. It was an excellent way to show guests what they’ll experience when they arrive.
eMarketer: What technology was required to make this campaign a reality?
Sabatini: We tested five consumer cameras and eventually selected the Samsung Gear 360. These cameras were used to record all the videos, which will be edited and released on a microsite in early September. They’ll also be available on the St. Giles app, and will be part of St. Giles’ fourth-quarter campaign, which is built around a contest that’s open to anyone who books with St. Giles on certain dates.
eMarketer: Other hotel brands such as the Marriott have experimented with VR as well. What makes St. Giles’ campaign different?
Venicia Gaul: Marriott went to their destinations and said, “Here’s what you can do inside the room.” The difference with the St. Giles campaign is we’re not just using VR inside the hotels—we’re enabling guests to experience the city [they are visiting] and create a story that St. Giles can then share with everyone through virtual reality.
Sabatini: A lot of hotels are using VR so that consumers can look inside, but we’re actually using it to show what’s outside.
eMarketer: What makes the travel industry well-suited for this technology to take off?
Sabatini: The travel industry is a beautiful canvas for this technology because there’s no better way to experience a place than actually escaping to it. With VR, there’s been a focus on high-end systems such as the Oculus, but the nice thing about 360 video is that we can make it accessible to the masses through Facebook and YouTube integrations.
By placing the power of the 360 camera in the hands of guests, the campaign highlights how accessible these new platforms can be.
eMarketer: What are some of the technology challenges or limitations when it comes to injecting VR into marketing?
Sabatini: We’re at the beginning of the technology wave right now. The main limitation is software. How do brands edit this footage? How do they color-correct it? How can they integrate graphics with it? It’s a very new medium.
eMarketer: What’s the future look like for VR in the travel space?
Sabatini: Major players such as Facebook, Microsoft, HTC and Sony are investing in VR, which is very exciting. It’s evolving at an incredible pace, so it’s up to brands and marketers to embrace this new technology. They’re going to have to figure out how to use it and how it’ll fit into their messaging.