#69: Ryan Pulliam on creating immersive marketing narratives with virtual reality and the future of experiential advertising campaigns

Ryan Pulliam is the Chief Marketing Officer of Specular Theory, which is a digital agency focused on creating augmented and virtual reality experiences that was co-founded with Morris May. She talks about how virtual reality is starting to be used in marketing and advertising campaigns, and the potential for telling engaging stories and immersing the audience into a unique and otherwise impossible experience.

ryan-pulliam2Virtual Reality will enable brands to create experiences that allow the audience to play a role in the story ranging from being professional race car driver, professional athlete or rock star on a music stage. Interactive stories up to this point have been seen through a screen where the audience feels more like a spectator, but VR can immerse someone within an experience.

Ryan talks about the lessons from the Games of Thrones Ascend the Wall VR experience by Framestore, and the Top Shop campaign during London Fashion week. She also mentions the Rift Coaster and Dumpy as being inspiring VR experiences as to what’s possible.

Finally, she talks about connecting a VR experience to a brand and the future of using VR as a try before you buy for things like Ikea furniture or driving a car. Immersive technologies can provide new ways to emotionally connect and audience to your brand’s story. In the end, it’s less about the VR technology, and more about providing an fully immersive experience that goes beyond what’s possible with observing experiences through a 2D screen.


  • 0:00 – CMO & co-founded Specular Theory with Morris May. Marketing and storytelling and reaching people in new ways with emerging technologies
  • 0:34 – Marketing is about storytelling and reaching your audience in a new way. Sharing content through a screen where they’re spectating. Experiential campaigns are limited by not fully being a part of a brand’s story. Making the impossible possible. Allowing them to be a play a role and not just be inspired by it like being a professional race car driver, a sports star or a rock star on stage at a music festival.
  • 1:57 – Which industries get virtual reality. Car companies stay up with technology and make interactive stories. Brands with a lot of marketing budget. Game of Thrones VR experience.
  • 2:46 – Connecting a VR experience to a brand. Depends on the brand. Brands who sponsor an event, and food and drink sponsor music festivals for example. Try not be gimmicky, but if you go that route, then give the best experience possible. Be a part of a brand. Try before you buy shopping experience either with furniture or a car will be pretty big. Gloves to pick up objects. Ikea shopping virtually to avoid driving there. Cool to bring really awesome things to your fans. It may be an extreme experience, but as long as it’s connected to your brand of adventure, enthusiasm or sports
  • 4:55 – VR demos that provide some inspiration for a marketing context. Top Shop campaign during London Fashion week where they did a contest to use a Rift during a fashion show. Been impressed by a lot of experiences on the Oculus Share site. Connects dots
  • 6:58 – Rift Coaster. Dumpy. Would be great to experience Dinosaurs
  • 7:52 – Game of Thrones demo. Fully immersed within a scene.
  • 8:31 – Scale and huge wall in the demo. People experiencing vertigo. Had a museum exhibit while waiting for the #GOTExhibit experience
  • 9:30 – Future of VR and marketing. Less about marketing and advertising and more about the story and the narrative. Less about the technology, and more about the experience. Immersion and being a part of a story and being emotionally connected to a story, and to be wowed. It’s about trying to be awesome and effective, and can now actually provide an experience rather than just seeing an experience

Theme music: “Fatality” by Tigoolio