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What Your Brand Needs To Know About Drones

The drone. It was once a term reserved primarily for the military world, then used amongst hobbyists, and is now a hot topic in creative circles. If you haven’t seen them hovering above a convention floor or over a live sporting event yet, you’ve at least seen footage shot from one. Companies like GoPro have put together beautiful videos using the technology, and other brands are slowly getting into the trend. It remains to be seen: are they just throwing money into a passing tech fad? Or are drones about to have brands (and their audiences) looking at content from a whole new perspective? 

Watch Where You Point That Thing

One obvious use of drone technology has existed for years, perhaps since the advent of human flight. Flying banners and messaging from planes has gone on for as long as advertising has. Only now with drones, your message flies at a lower, more noticeable altitude. This works for limited-time promotions, where notices of discounts or distribution of activation codes can be physically dropped or displayed.

Don’t be surprised if there’s an increase in indoor air traffic at the next trade show you visit– drones are the newest exhibition eye-candy (to the chagrin of modeling agencies). More intimate uses of drones are bringing the flights lower and indoors, like in this holiday-themed, drone-flown mistletoe.

However, using the tech in this fashion will only benefit certain niche brands and is a one-shot deal. Moreover, incorporating drones as a physical medium in event marketing appears fun and creative, but is inherently problematic. Indoor flight poses a threat to protruding body parts and is potentially illegal indoors (depending on locality). In fact, regulations for drone flight in general will come under scrutiny soon, and the FAA is said to be preparing to lay down definite ground rules in the coming year.

With the practicality and the legality of direct marketing via drones in the air (pun intended), what then, is the best use of this technology for the more marketing-minded among us?

A Higher Calling

The answer lies in the 14.38 billion dollars that digital video advertising is projected to reach in 2019 and the 38.1% of total online video consumption (as of 2014) that advertising had taken a share of (up from 9.8% since 2010). If the cliche “content is king” holds true, then video currently sits on that throne.

While brands (like Audi) are opting to feature the drones as “actors” in their ads or attempting “surprise” viral stunts (like Pepsi Max’s “Drone Football”), the “wow” factor wears thin after the first few attempts. Eliciting wonder from the crowd will have to come from higher up– literally, from a fresh and new perspective, where applicable.  

Standing out is no easy task in the age of social media, short videos, and virality. With the unique aspects, aerial points of view, and the recent development of livestream capabilities from mobile, drone footage will give your content the high production value it needs. Whereas a few years ago you’d outsource the job of obtaining that kind of footage, you now have the capabilities to do so in-house.

If part of your strategy requires delivery of an immersive experience, take a page out of Patron’s Hacienda tour, where drone footage was used for an interactive 360-degree VR tour of the company’s fields and facilities. One advantage of using VR is the ability to track where and when in the experience your audience’s interest peaked, then applying that data to future campaign targeting. GE’s #Droneweek hopped on to the live-stream bandwagon via Periscope to bring us real-time video that was able to capture the broad scope of technologies that the monolith has its hands on.

Another burgeoning use of drone technology is the gathering of user wireless data by collecting publicly available wifi signals for geo-targeting and proximity marketing. The technology uses signal strength and wireless data from devices nearby to obtain user information without any GPS or operator dependence. The data is then used to accurately profile audiences in key markets, but is subject to even more regulation and FAA scrutiny, due to privacy concerns. However, if a version of this is made publicly available (and legal), then mobile data stats will be an extremely valuable commodity for the marketing community.

The merging of drone technology with VR, livestream apps, data-tracking, videography and cinematography tools help remove the stigma of “passing fad.” These factors, coupled with dropping prices, will make it a very valuable asset to your video production toolbox– now, it’s just a matter of waiting to see where the FAA lands in terms of freeing up that precious airspace.