Published: 20 September 2016

On my second visit to Google’s London offices, I managed to infiltrate the building without even trying.

The Digital Marketing team at Sagittarius had been invited up to the Google Partner Badge Celebration – an exclusive event to firms and individuals who have the prestige of holding the coveted Partner badge, itself an exclusive accreditation that demands a thorough knowledge of Google’s Adwords platform.

Unlike my first visit, on this occasion I wasn’t visiting to study, but to celebrate the hard work our team had undertaken in becoming Google Partners, and some sneak peeks into what Google had planned next. Also unlike my first visit, for some reason I was mistaken as a Google employee.

Upon arrival, I approached two young ladies who were busy organising nametags for the invitees and announced with a puffed-up chest full of pride:

“Hi, I’m here for the Badge Celebration”
“Oh are you a Googler? You can go straight on up”
“Oh great, thanks”

I made my way to the elevator, before realising something was probably amiss, and images of security guards wearing brightly-coloured Google uniforms throwing me outside started crossing my mind.

Sheepishly I made my way back to the front desk, and with a significantly lower amount of bravado, asked for clarification.

“Sorry, just checking – what is a ‘Googler’?”
“I don’t think I’m a Googler. I mean I use Google, but-“

The other young lady interjected.

“He doesn’t work here Sonia. He’s a guest.”
“… Ohhh.”

With the confusion cleared up I was handed a nametag and a glowstick, and while usually I would be rather pleased at being given something from Google (especially with my name on), it felt like a poor trade-in for the opportunity to explore the entirety of Google’s hidden-from-public offices. Perhaps I should have just played dumb and explored at my leisure, taking the time to covertly photograph any whiteboard formulas marked “TOP SECRET” I came across. Oh well.

The evening wasn’t without new discoveries however, as we were lucky enough to be taken through Google’s newest endeavour – Google Arts & Culture – a sort of virtual museum of historical and cultural pieces, best enjoyed with a pair of headphones and Google Cardboard, or another VR headset. If Wikipedia is a library of raw data without emotion, Arts & Culture is the Hollywood version. More emotive, more engaging and more interactive. I don’t necessarily see an avenue for marketing in there just yet, but its early days, and Google loves to make money, so we’ll see in the future.

Aside from that guests were given the opportunity to demo the HTC Vive VR platform using the painting app Tilt Brush. Being an owner of an HTC Vive this didn’t really offer anything new for me, but reinforced how strongly big Search and Social platforms like Facebook are pushing for more companies to try out VR

Observing the demonstrations onstage, and demoing the Vive to my own friends and colleagues, the thing that’s clear is that once people try VR for themselves, everything clicks. The moment they wear the headset, take a few steps, reach out and touch or create objects with their own hands, all of the expense in purchasing and developing VR technologies suddenly makes sense, in the same way that swiping, tapping and pinching an iPhone screen did back in 2007.

I’m trying to urge our office to have a look at producing 360 photo or video content for our own Social presence, as it is now completely clear that VR is the big thing (not ‘next’ big thing – current) for Travel Marketing.

Retention and engagement stats for VR content are very high compared to static text or visual content, so I’m excited to see what Sagittarius’ first VR-ready content will result in… Time to get brainstorming, methinks…

Thanks for the invite, Google. Feel free to mistake me for an employee again. I’ll be ready next time.

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