We've seen a spate of high profile VR marketing campaigns and fake-real world CGI social media ads from big brands recently. But activist groups are also turning to the techniques, as this attention grabbing campaign shows.
There are giant pigs hovering over several locations in the UK, and they have nothing to do with Pink Floyd, who famously flew a porcine balloon over Battersea Power Station. It's an app called SOW VR, which aims to shame companies that it says are connected to industrial meat farming (for more on VR, see our guide to the best VR headsets).
Created as part of the Bad Taste series of campaigns devised by Greenpeace, SOW AR is a free app that was launched on the Apple Store and Google Play yesterday (27 November). It places a giant virtual sow over several buildings, including two Tesco supermarkets, the Barclays Bank headquarters at Canary Wharf, the Danish Crown Factory in Rochdale and Cargill Tower, Seaforth. Greenpeace says all of these have links to environmentally damaging industrial pork farming.
The app was created by the interdisciplinary collective A Drift of Us and the artist Naho Matsuda. The Tokyo-based French visual artist Luigi Honorat coded the app and sculpted and rigged the pig. Greenpeace says that SOW is a symbol of protest and resistance and you can only see her through your phone’s camera superimposed onto your environment.
"SOW has a belly that is worryingly big, she is obviously exhausted and her tired body is evidence of the many breeding cycles she had to endure to produce piglets," Greenpeace said. "Sometimes she is asleep, sometimes she twitches her ears or moves her tail, blinks her eyes and huffs. Sometimes she squeals and screams a painful loud scream.
"SOW does not put the blame on the average consumer. Instead, she opens up a space for provocative questions and new imaginations. What does the food system that we are part of actually look like? How are we implicated in it? Where are the escape routes and where is the hope? Where is the solidarity with animals and with the natural environment?"
It's interesting to see a tech that big brands have been using for viral campaigns is also being taken up by activist causes. Using VR and video effects for digital campaigns can be a lot more effective that a physical world activation (Maybelline fooled everyone earlier in the year with its fictional campaign on London transport).