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Adobe Is Developing Advertising Solutions for Virtual Reality (EXCLUSIVE)

Adobe is starting to dip its toes in the water with regards to virtual reality advertising: The company is showing of a project for advertising in VR at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona this week.

The project is at this point only a prototype coming out of the company’s research labs, but Adobe Primetime Director of Product Management Campbell Foster told Variety during a recent interview that the company could deliver similar solutions to publishers within the next 6-12 months.

The project shown off at MWC was kick-started by Adobe Engineering Manager YS Shin during one of the company’s recent garage week events, which encourage employees to explore new ideas over the course of a few days.  It’s focused on theater-style viewing of 2-D videos in a VR environment, similar to the way Netflix, HBO and Hulu make their existing catalogs available on headsets like the Samsung Gear VR and Google’s Playstation View.

Adobe’s VR is a takeover of a theater-style 2-D movie. Courtesy of Adobe

A clip shown in this fashion is paused for an interstitial for Coca Cola, which takes over the entire theater, and displays a set of information cards that could be used to deliver additional information about the product, promise coupons or even tweet from within the app. At the end of the interstitial, the take-over gradually fades out again, making room for the video to continue.

Foster said that Adobe purposefully focused on this theater setting at first, as opposed to more immersive 360 or 3-D experiences. “With 360, it’s not clear what content is going to look like beyond gaming,” he said. He also said that Adobe wanted to focus on mobile VR because of availability issues, as opposed to higher-end headsets, or even augmented reality (AR) technologies. “For entertainment, VR is a lot more promising than AR,” he said.

The ad unit includes a set of information cards that could unlock coupons and more. Courtesy of Adobe

This isn’t Adobe’s first foray into virtual reality. The company also has VR initiatives as pat of its Creative Cloud unit, which focuses on content creation tools, and is now making it possible to edit VR video in Premiere Pro. And Adobe’s Document Cloud unit is working on bringing PDFs to VR.

The advertising project shown off this week is still in its early stages, but Foster said that it could eventually take advantage of many of the same features that Adobe today offers for traditional video advertising, including detailed analytics as well as the ability to target consumers and dynamically swap out content based on the viewer. “If it is someone under 21, don’t show the Budweiser ad,” he said.

Foster also said that these ad units could eventually also take viewers out of the theater setting and beam them into an even more immersive experience, only to teleport them back when the ad is over. “There is a lot of room for creativity with the format,” he said.

Adobe’s Primetime team, which is part of the company’s marketing Cloud unit, has been doubling down on video advertising as media playback and other areas that have long been mainstays of the company are increasingly getting commoditized. At the end of 2016, Adobe acquired video ad tech company Tubemogul for $540 million.

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