Well, it was only a matter of time.
Advertising giant Facebook announced Wednesday that they’re going to begin testing advertising inside virtual reality titles on its Oculus platform soon. The first roll-out is limited enough, with Facebook testing ads inside a single gaming shooter title: Blaston from Resolution Games. They are interestingly not rolling this out with a first-party title, though I’m sure integration with Oculus Studio titles is inevitable.
“For now, this is a test with a few apps — once we see how this test goes and incorporate feedback from developers and the community, we’ll provide more details on when ads may become more broadly available across the Oculus Platform and in the Oculus mobile app,” a company blog post reads.
Users will be able to mute, hide or see information on why they are being served an ad in its current form.
Facebook is likely realizing that it probably should’ve published a blog post years ago declaring that it was indeed not using smartphone microphones to monitor conversations and target ads (mainly because it has access to better personal information via adtech data partners anyway, but I digress) before those narratives took off. Facebook specifically notes it doesn’t use audio conversations on the headset for ad targeting.
It’s an unsurprising development for a platform that Facebook has long been bankrolling with little regard for current revenues. Nevertheless, Facebook likely realizes that there are going to be plenty of privacy questions and addressed some of them head-on. The biggest admission is that Facebook says it will not be using any data stored locally on the Oculus headset, including images from the device’s cameras to target ads. It also says, somewhat less emphatically, that there are “no plans to use movement data to target ads.”
Virtual reality has been a labor of future-minded thinking for Facebook. Since the beginning, it has spent billions bankrolling the ecosystem and this move seems to signal that it believes its wandered over some sort of adoption hump and are nearing the time to start more aggressively monetizing.