Industry Insights
Virtual Insanity: How Real Virtual Reality Advertising is, with StartApp


Ariel Shimoni
Director of Virtual Reality




For those of us that aren’t familiar with StartApp, please tell us a little more about your company and core offering.

Since 2010, we’ve been focusing on building and empowering the mobile app eco system. We’re currently one of the largest ad networks on mobile, reaching close to 500M MAU’s and our SDK’s is helping over 200,000 apps monetize their traffic using our high end targeting capabilities and awesomely innovative ads. Recently, we’ve launched a new platform, known as SODA – the Social Data Platform. With SODA, we are creating the world’s most powerful social data, by collaborating with dozens of social apps to share and leverage social data.


Mark Zuckerberg has stated that VR will be the next big platform, that can go beyond gaming into social applications. What was the most enthralling experience you personally had with a VR unit so far?

I’m totally excited about gaming in VR, and I’ve played some seriously impressive games so far, for sure. But oddly enough, the best experience I’ve had was not a game. While visiting Casual Connect SF last summer, I tried a VR experience that’s all about relaxation. I found myself in a room with hundreds of people, with the Oculus on my head and a pair of headphones, and I was completely detached. I was outdoor, fishing and throwing rocks in the water, walking around and really feeling calm. It was very immersive. And strange.


Who are some of the major players in the VR space, in terms of hardware devices or software platforms, and what kind of niche do you think each of them will carve out?

So, let’s not talk about the giants, right? They are all over the news and easy to spot. My personal favorite hardware/headset so far is by MergeVR. They are out of Texas, and they built their Mobile VR headset from soft foam, which is brilliant. Super comfy, fits all phones, and looks really good. I’ve been using it exclusively for an Mobile VR app/game. Software, I like what AltspaceVR are doing, with their spin on social and VR, where you can rent/open a room and have interactive experiences like quizzes, standup comedy and stuff. It’s pretty cool.


Virtual Reality was much hyped at this year’s Mobile World Congress. How do you foresee the adoption of Mobile VR over the upcoming months and years, and what do you think it’s effects will be on the landscape of advertising?

Definitely can’t miss VR anymore. It seems as though it almost didn’t exist 6 months ago (outside the realm of gamers and enthusiasts) and now it is everywhere. I read that 8 out the top 10 tech companies in the world are working on something in VR/AR. That pretty much stamps this as a real phenomenon.

Specifically Mobile VR will continue to grow, for two reasons I think. The first is Google and Apple. So Apple are working on something, probably for the iPhone (I’m sceptic they will do a piece of hardware that’s pure VR) and that will do a lot for Mobile VR. Google should release an upgraded version of the Cardboard, and with that, I’m assuming a VR-adapted environment of apps and content that users can consume while in VR. That will be a game changer, as there will be an official place for developers to release content to, and end users to start paying!

VR in general has the ability to transmit messages in levels that have yet to be explored by advertisers. The ability to connect to emotions, in VR, is so far and beyond any other medium we know, that once brands and advertisers will realize it, it’ll change how ads look and feel. Mobile, like other aspects in VR, will lead the charge. It’s with Mobile VR that these brand messages will be able to reach masses (moreover than the high end devices, where content will be less dependent on ads)


Other than StartApp, who are some companies also innovating in the Mobile VR Advertising or Data space?

There are some creative agencies doing some really cool things in VR, taking advantage of the ability to really bring a narrative into the ad (Like the Mini ad that was in the New York Times VR app). On the data side, Retinad is a small startup from Montreal that is doing some pretty amazing VR tracking and analytics, including emotion tracking. I really like what they are doing!


How about Augmented Reality? Do you see any applications of advertising in AR?

Definitely. All the research shows that AR will even be bigger than VR, since it doesn’t restrict your movement and you can interact with it and with our actual physical reality. So the applications for advertising on AR are massive. The technology is a bit further away than VR and Mobile, but it’s going to be some very cool stuff.


Other than VR, what are some innovations happening in mobile or advertising today that excite you the most?

As a advertising platform, we are constantly looking to where we can evolve. Our latest product release, SODA, takes social data and converts it into actionable tools for social apps. Definitely data technology and everything you can do with it is exciting. Also, innovation in chat-tech is really cool, having the ability to call and use other apps from within apps you are using (calling Uber from inside FB messenger) is a serious force as well!



StartApp was founded in 2010 with the goal of consistently developing and providing the most innovative and effective mobile solutions for our partners. With SODA, our unique social data platform, partners can now craft a comprehensive, detailed picture of their users in order to optimize and successfully execute all of their overall mobile strategies.

StartApp currently partners with over 220,000 applications with a user base of over 477 million monthly active users worldwide. The company was formed by Gil Dudkiewicz and Ran Avidan and is headquartered in New York City with additional offices in San Francisco, Shanghai, Beijing, Moscow, Stockholm, Tel Aviv, and Sao Paolo.

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