A view from Mark Gallie

Tech viewpoint on CGI

Within the advertising community, photo shoots are one of the most exciting parts of the job.

Trips to far-flung locations are often the culmination of a lengthy creative-planning process and can be the pinnacle of agency life in terms of finally bringing an idea to fruition.

There are, however, some obvious downsides to a live photo shoot and it’s not unusual for big, expensive ideas to be stopped in their tracks by the wrong light, inclement weather or temperamental equipment, creating big headaches and bigger budgets, slipping schedules and unwanted compromise.

So it’s no surprise that marketers and creative agencies have looked to the world of film and TV for potential alternatives in the shape of CGI technology. When used effectively, CGI can transform ads – but that’s nothing new: horses crashing through the waves in the Guinness "surfer" ad from 1998 proved just how effective CGI could be in advertising.

Some brands are already reaping the rewards of digitally creating photo-real products in both static and film formats. That footage can then be seamlessly mixed with live action or images to create truly compelling content at lower cost and without the huge risks that plague live photo shoots.

Mercedes-Benz uses CGI visualisations in all of its marketing and advertising – billions of images are available to be used across a vast range of marcoms materials, from advertisements to online showrooms. The ads for Pandora’s latest Rose jewellery range are entirely computer-generated; 75 per cent of the images in Ikea’s catalogue are now created through CGI rather than more traditional processes.

Creative teams are realising that CGI is bringing ideas to life in ways that were previously not possible

But it’s not just cost and efficiency that is making CGI all the more attractive. The world is rapidly moving towards customised, tailored, personalised products with more variations of style, design and features than ever before. It’s becoming impossible to physically photograph every available product variation for a global campaign, and CGI allows brands to create a digital garage of assets that can show multiple iterations.

CGI product portfolios will also have more prosaic uses. They will enable brand managers in an international FMCG company, for example, to curate and manage the vast range of product design variations across many different markets worldwide. A range of cereal carrying a particular promotion in a certain market will be easily adapted digitally for other territories.

Marketing and creative teams are realising the riches that digitising a product portfolio offers and are understanding that using CGI enhances creativity, bringing ideas to life in ways that were previously not possible.

So, although we won’t see CGI entirely replace the traditional photo shoot any time soon, we can expect its uses to evolve and become ever-more widespread.

Mark Gallie is the managing director at Mackevision UK