It's not just geeks and gamers who are excited that virtual and augmented reality keep moving closer to the mainstream. Invivo Communications continued to ride the crest of that tech wave in 2015 and expects even more interest in leading-edge technology in the months ahead.
With the coming release of Microsoft's HoloLens and the surge of Google Cardboard, virtual and augmented reality have transcended buzzword status, according to Andrea Bielecki, president of the Toronto-based firm. “These technologies are going to be everywhere. It has become not a novelty for marketers, but an expectation,” she says.
The technology has dazzled players throughout the healthcare ecosystem, whether pharma marketers, device makers, or medical educators. “Whenever there is complex anatomy involved and we get doctors to put on a headset, which immerses them in the experience, they cannot be distracted,” Bielecki enthuses. “They take it off afterward and say, ‘That's a game changer.'”
With 2015 revenue of $9 million and a current headcount of 75, Invivo is primed for significant growth — perhaps as much as 20% — before the year is out, Bielecki reports. In advance of those anticipated gains, the agency went on an A-lister hiring binge. Recent additions include VP of sales and marketing Patti Rempel; VP, client services Kristina Sauter; marketing manager Ashley Duval; and social media manager Glendon Mellow.
Not surprisingly, the surge coincided with a host of client and brand wins. Stryker (surgical simulation) and Eli Lilly tapped Invivo for project work. Medtronic grew its relationship with the firm via an augmented- and virtual-reality project for its In.Pact Admiral, a drug-coated balloon for peripheral artery disease. And Invivo produced versions for Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard. For new client Leo Pharma, the agency recently began piloting an app called In Touch, which helps physicians and patients in Canada track psoriasis with remote monitoring. The app is expected to debut elsewhere before long.
Given its tech-forward ways, Invivo still experiences pushback from hesitant clients. “Leading edge is leading edge, and that means there are risks. It isn't always easy to get clients comfortable with technology that is still in beta,” Bielecki notes. As a result, she says clients are increasingly asking the agency to do what she describes as “lunch and learns.”
“We're already being asked to create patient animation, because people want to see what procedures and facilities will look like,” she says. “Doctors are already using VR for everything from desensitizing patients to way-finding apps to giving patients a 360degree view of what they will see before and after surgery.
“AR is going to be everywhere this fall,” Bielecki continues. “When a brand's communication strategy involves explaining complex anatomy, 3-D animation, and surgical simulations, this approach is very powerful.” Video is rapidly becoming a requirement in such efforts, with 180- and 360-degree videos surging in importance and awareness.
“Surgeries are now being live-streamed, so these complex technologies will only become more in demand,” Bielecki says.