Skip to main content

AR and VR Marketing: A New Opportunity For Charities 

by Sean Greally | 16.03.2023

Not-for-profit organisations find themselves in an increasingly competitive field where it’s difficult to make your voice heard and raise funds. Digital marketing alleviates the pressures of building awareness and helps charities spread their messages to audiences around the world. What was once brochures, posters, and fundraising events is now a world of digital content and social media. 

Digital marketing is the most cost-effective way for a charity to reach audiences, but in 2023, charities and advertisers need to find new ways to grab attention. Recent analysis from Blockthrough shows that over 290 million people worldwide use desktop adblockers and, therefore, actively avoid ads. This means, more than ever before, digital content needs to be engaging and stand out from the crowd. AR and VR marketing is a growing medium that charities should consider if they’re looking for a thumb-stopping ad campaign.

VR and AR: What Are They?

Virtual reality, or VR for short, immerses users in a 360° environment, typically through a headset. It gives the illusion of being in a certain place or situation. The technology can ‘transport’ the user to a beach, a forest, an office, or any other environment generated by a computer system.

Augmented reality, or AR, features virtual assets that overlay an image or video of the real world in real-time. Unlike VR, augmented reality does not require specific equipment; the user only needs a phone or a tablet. Typically, AR applications, tools, or filters are cheaper to produce than VR – although this depends on the capability and quality.

We can group the two media by the term “immersive media.”

Why Charities Should Use AR and VR Marketing

AR and VR marketing has a proven track record of producing winning campaigns. Charities should consider the use of immersive media as it can enhance their ad campaign in more ways than one. 

It Builds Greater Awareness

One of the biggest benefits of AR/VR marketing is the content stands out – people always take note: they want to try it out, show it to their friends, and start a conversation. AR and VR marketing builds awareness in a broad target audience, and it helps make the message stick. According to a study by Nielsen, 84% of consumers were able to recall a charity brand after viewing a VR video. As for AR marketing, we need look no further than WWF’s World Ocean Day campaign back in 2021. Working closely with WWF, Tug designed an AR plastic pollution filter, resulting in over half a million impressions.

It Creates More Empathy

When you’re reaching out to a potential donor, or trying to spread an important message, the audience needs to empathise with your content. AR and VR marketing adds immersion to the story, bringing the viewer closer to the narrative and its message. A more emotional experience, this sort of content has a greater chance of driving donations. Nielsen’s study revealed 48% of users who viewed VR content are more likely to donate afterwards, compared to 38% of non-users. 

Take a look at Wateraid’s 2015 Aftershock documentary, for example. The virtual reality documentary told the story of Krishna Sunuwar, a plumber working on repairing a damaged water system in Kharelthok, Nepal. The VR film showed the challenges of water access for communities across the country following devastating earthquakes in 2015. Through VR, the film immersed viewers in the story and hardships of those afflicted, creating more empathy – resulting in more awareness and engagement. 

“There’s no doubt that VR and 360 videos have been helping charities and NGOs increase engagement… The medium allows us to bring our supporters closer to our work than has ever previously been possible, as well as offer an exciting way of reaching out to new audiences” Catherine Feltham, VR filmmaker at WaterAid, speaking to Raindance film festival following the film’s selection.

It Generates a Personal Connection

Brands can build a more personal connection with audiences through AR and VR. Interactive or engaging AR / VR experiences give the user a purpose and a sense of responsibility. Connecting with users in this way can be effective – evident in the NHS’ blood donation campaign. The NHS needs to collect 5,000 blood donations daily* to meet patient demands. To find new blood donors, including those in younger generations, the NHS came up with an innovative OOH campaign that utilised augmented reality. 

Users could connect to a billboard which displayed an unhealthy patient. Utilising a smartphone, the experience replicated the process of donating blood through a virtual sticker. Users held the sticker over their arm, where an augmented ‘needle’ took blood, filling a blood bag. Once complete, the billboard celebrates their act by personally thanking them. The patient also transforms, looking far healthier once the augmented blood bag fills up. The campaign spread awareness for blood donations and won the Digital Outdoor Advertising Competition by Ocean Outdoor.

* as of 2015

It Can Act as an Educational Tool

Charities that are looking to spread awareness and an educational message can utilise AR or VR to build a more engaging, useful resource. Learning from a guide or video tutorial is helpful, but nothing beats physical experience. AR and VR make it possible for a user to learn from ‘experience’ without even leaving the home. Resuscitation UK made headlines with their VR learning tool for cardiac arrest – educating users on how to perform CPR. The resource, aptly named Lifesaver VR, was so successful that it was nominated for a BAFTA in 2013 and 2017.

Where Does AR and VR Fit in a Digital Marketing Strategy?

AR and VR marketing are effective tools that can boost your digital marketing content. Producing VR and AR content is expensive, so charities should incorporate immersive media into a wider strategy rather than making it their sole focus. When added to effective copy, imagery, and videography; charities and advertisers can create campaigns that stand out from competitors, reach more people, and engage with younger audiences. 

Are you looking to improve your content marketing strategy? Tug’s dedicated content team uses a data-led approach to produce winning content that delivers results. Get in touch and learn how we can help your business.