This article first appeared in Campaign
For a lot of people, the future is a scary thing. You only need to reflect on any great technological shift (or any episode of ‘Black Mirror’) to recognise any new invention should always come with a certain measure of trepidation.
This is currently true of VR, which for several years now has been poised to take the leap from sci-fi possibility to on-the-shelf reality. Along with their competitors in the burgeoning VR market, Samsung has set out to put a lovable face on this reality-altering invention.
‘Ostrich’ is its latest effort in this project and is among the most successful VR adverts we’ve seen to date.
Mostly this is down to its utter simplicity. The minute-and-a-half long ad begins with the eponymous creature finding a VR headset mislaid by a foolish human.
After accidentally hooking the headset over its beak, our ostrich is suddenly confronted with something it could never have possible imagined: unencumbered flight through the cloud. Or, more accurately, a flight simulator. The ostrich is understandably astonished.
What follows is a big-hearted story about dreaming big, even when your dreams seem physically impossible. Inspired by its VR visions to try and actually fly, the ostrich fails to achieve take-off. However, after one of the few inspiring avian-based training montages, it spreads it wings and achieves the impossible, soaring high above its landlocked pals. It’s also worth mentioning that ‘Ostrich’ is brilliantly set to Elton John’s ‘Rocket Man’, which provides an ideal backdrop to such a silly but sweet premise.
Rather than focusing on technical specs or services offered, Samsung succeeds with ‘Ostrich’ by making a joyous, straightforward, emotional story.
This charmingly stripped-back approach separates ‘Ostrich’ from the crowd of VR adverts, which have often focused on the mechanics of VR to the detriment of the viewing experience. Take Playstation’s ‘Live The Game’ from 2016, a spot so overflowing with the different games on offer that the result feels a little like a headache.
The same goes for HTC’s campaign for their Vive virtual reality system which, while admittedly impressive, makes its product look like a plot point in a trippy sci-fi dystopia, rather than a pleasurable experience.
The fact is that, for most people, VR is a completely new notion and this kind of technological disruption can be a little daunting, if not outright overwhelming. By focusing on a simple, sentimental story, ‘Ostrich’ lays out the magical potential of VR without dialogue or any sort of conventional product pitch.
The ads closing text sums up this attitude perfect, “We make what can’t be made, so you can do what can’t be done”.
With this, Samsung makes clear that joy and enjoyment is at the heart of their VR experience, rather than just gadgetry. Whether you already own a VR headset, are thinking about taking the plunge or wish we could all go back to using rotary phones, there is no denying the simple fact that one of 2017’s best tech adverts stars a CGI bird with a smartphone strapped to its face. Isn’t the future great?