As destination travel takes off, the ‘Big Easy’ is experimenting with augmented reality/virtual reality to attract visitors

For the first time, the City of New Orleans is experimenting with virtual reality marketing through an immersive experience viewed via Oculus headsets or YouTube. It’s a move made in hopes of boosting brand awareness and standing out in a crowded market as travel hits pre-pandemic levels.

“We need to break through the clutter of so many other messages coming our way,” said Mark Romig, CMO of New Orleans and Company, formerly the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau.

It’s a first for the city’s marketing efforts, which have recently gone digital, investing in digital video and social media with linear TV programming reserved for regional campaigns, particularly around sporting events. live. It’s unclear how these new technology-focused efforts will impact ad spend, as Romig declined to provide those numbers.

Spending will increase “depending on the situation,” Romig said. “We’ve never been afraid to spend appropriately,” he added, further noting that the brand needs to “spend efficiently because we don’t have an unlimited amount of dollars.”

According to Kantar, New Orleans and Company spent $60,400 on media in 2021. These numbers do not include social media because Kantar does not track these numbers. Kantar did not provide reported expenses for New Orleans and Company for this year.

New Orleans and company rolled out their first foray into tech-driven marketing efforts in mid-July and are expected to continue through 2023. The eight-minute immersive virtual reality spot featuring dinner with locals, home visits and more was produced with its partner agency Dentsu Creative. The non-immersive spots will air on streaming services, social media, through display ads and some linear TV. At the time of reporting, the YouTube video had less than 400 views.

A few years ago, VR ads were considered more hype than reality, according to previous reports from Digiday. But now, with increased consumer interest in digital experiences, brands like CUUP, Nestlé and Estée Lauder are experimenting with augmented reality/virtual reality to bridge the gap between online and offline experiences.

“We’re about to move beyond experimentation,” said Marc Simons, co-founder of ad agency Giant Spoon. “We’re probably 10-15 years away from augmented reality/virtual reality being adopted in droves.”

As AR/VR continues to grow in popularity, more and more companies will evolve to meet the habits of buyers. That means marketers will soon have to press the gas to avoid missing the VR bandwagon. “There will be more and more opportunities for brands to be able to start experimenting,” he said. Eventually, Simons expects commerce, shopping and entertainment marketing to happen on a regular basis.

It’s too early to tell what the ROI of New Orleans and Company’s first attempt at tech-driven marketing is. But Romig says there could be more investment in that space in the future.

“We are open to more,” he said.

As destination travel takes off, the ‘Big Easy’ is experimenting with AR/VR to draw visitors