Cisco employs VR to dramatize cybersecurity threats

Interactive 3D demo, developed with Allison+Partners, is a first for the tech brand and an uncommon sight in the b-to-b marketing world.

SINGAPORE: Cisco, together with PR partner Allison+Partners, has unveiled a virtual-reality experience to give consumers an accessible view of cybersecurity threats.

Designed with the lay, non-IT person in mind, the experience takes the user inside a virtual network and proceeds to demonstrate the multidimensional cyberattacks that can occur, while also promoting Cisco’s security services to deal with these issues.

Speaking to Campaign Asia-Pacific, which was invited to experience the campaign, Matt Hardwick, Cisco’s director of corporate communications for Asia-Pacific and Japan, said the company deals with more than 20 billion threats every day, and the complexity of cybersecurity needed to be made clear to a growing non-IT audience.

"Technology purchasers have moved from the IT department to lines-of-business users, like the CMO," he said. "Cybersecurity is extremely complex, and people take it for granted. So if we can show just a little bit of that complexity, I think that’s really interesting to do."

The experience will initially be rolled out in Cisco’s four main Asia-Pacific markets: Singapore, Australia, India, and Japan. Hardwick is also in discussions with his U.S. counterparts about taking the experience to North America.

"This is about taking a pure technology company and making it much more accessible through VR and showing what is actually happening. We chose security because for our clients and partners, it is the most important issue," he said.

Hardwick said the experience was created primarily for influencers and analysts, who would then take the message to wider audiences. But given the initial response to the campaign, clients are being approached directly. The move is something of a departure for b-to-b marketing, which is often seen as behind the b-to-c sector. But Hardwick told Campaign Asia-Pacific that while there are not as many b-to-b marketers using new technology, the impression that it is trailing b-to-c is unfair.

"The new technology is there, it’s going to become more pervasive, and we should use it," he said. "It’s a great way of having an immersive marketing and communications platform. But our biggest concern was making sure the technology didn’t get in the way of or supersede the story itself."

Hardwick said this was crucial to developing the experience, both given the unjust reputation of b-to-b marketing and because Cisco is keen to build on the campaign.

"What was so important for us is that we didn’t want it to be gimmicky," he explained. "If we gave up 60% of the complexity [of cybersecurity] just to tell a story on a new platform, it would look gimmicky and I think it would have died very quickly."

The experience was scripted and developed in conjunction with All Told, Allison+Partners’ integrated storytelling unit, and Singapore-based VR studio Tiny Island.

"Today, it’s not a matter of if but when a network comes under attack. There’s also a critical time dimension in terms of how quickly the network can identify these events, and how effectively it can respond," said Paul Mottram, MD of All Told in Asia-Pacific. "To tell this multi-dimensional story, we needed to use multi-dimensional storytelling technology. VR was the obvious solution."

Hardwick added that this first VR experience was just the beginning, with Cisco looking at how to develop the campaign further.

"We could maybe look at making it even more interactive, moving into gamification perhaps. We’re also looking at taking it mobile as well, at Cisco Live in Australia," he said.

This story first appeared on campaignasia.com.

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