Close-Up: Can 3D ads truly jump off the screen?

The first 3D TV ad is coming, but is it a gimmick or a viable option for agencies?

2009 has been a pivotal year for 3D. Thanks to a series of hit films, such as Up and My Bloody Valentine, the innovation has enjoyed a scale of popularity not seen since the concept first hit the big screen in the 50s.

And while many have been willing to dismiss the resurgence as nothing more than a passing fad, major broadcasters have begun to throw their weight behind the concept - Channel 4 is running a special 3D week later this month and Sky has announced its intentions to launch a dedicated 3D channel at some point next year.

The resurgence of the format has, in the main, come down to recent advancements in technology. On the production side, filming 3D footage is no longer an equipment-heavy and time-consuming operation. And, as far as the audience is concerned, those cheap red and green glasses have been replaced with sturdy and (mildly) fashionable black ones.

Inevitably, the eagerness of the broadcasters and film producers to embrace 3D has not gone unnoticed by brands and, during Channel 4's 3D week, the first major 3D TV ad will be screened.

Created by the Publicis-owned agency Notorious, the ad for Courvoisier cognac will run six times during the week and will feature shards of glass appearing to move out of the screen towards the viewer, before returning to form a bottle of the brand's Exclusif variant.

Consumers will be able to view the ad through a pair of 3D glasses, which can be picked up at participating Sainsbury's stores in the weeks leading up to the event.

"Courvoisier has always been about leading the way and pushing the boundaries, so for us a 3D ad really fits the bill," Janice Macintosh, the marketing manager of Courvoisier, says.

There's no doubt that Courvoisier is reaping the benefits of being the brand that got to 3D advertising first - the PR alone has ensured that the brief to raise awareness of the brand has been fulfilled.

But the novelty of 3D ads will die down and then it is a question of whether brands will still be prepared to explore the format. The first stumbling block, as with many new innovations, is the cost.

Tim Butler, an associate director at Pearl & Dean, states that a 3D ad costs around 20 per cent more to make than a 2D version; not a major difference, but noticeable enough during a recession.

The second problem is to do with the agencies themselves. Despite the advancements in technology, creating a 3D ad is still a complicated business and requires a level of expertise that few people have.

Duncan Humphrey, the creative director at the 3D-specialist Can Communicate, explains: "Up until now, 3D has always been a bit of a niche market and if you don't have the suitable expertise then you will create more problems than you'll solve. People are just deciding to have a go at the moment and not getting great results."

And finally there is the idea itself. If brands produce 3D ads just for the sake of it and don't incorporate any sort of thought or relevancy into the process, then it will fail to build a connection with the viewer.

The success of 3D films this year suggests consumers are more willing to embrace the concept than before. Film-makers have realised, though, that in order to prolong the effects of the format, the basic values of film-making must not be sacrificed for cheap gimmicks.

You still need to provide content and depth that resonates with viewers and advertisers, and agencies need to be mindful of this when considering the technique as a serious advertising tool.

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CREATIVE - Seb Royce, creative director, glue London

"At the moment, 3D is still mainly about scale. It's fun but it's not massively ideas-led.

"There needs to be a real reason for doing it, rather than just as a PR stunt.

"I just don't want it to be a case where every brand jumps on the bandwagon just because the improvements in technology mean they can. I don't want to see a cup of coffee floating about in front of me, for example. The brand needs to be one that I really want to interact with, such as a car or a sports brand."

CLIENT - Janice Macintosh, marketing manager, Courvoisier

"In today's world, consumers want to interact with brands and have a more intense brand experience. This is why 3D advertising works, because it is sensory and stimulates the viewer. Particularly in our sector, the format can help make the product more real.

"Marks & Spencer has already done it in 2D with how it portrays its food, and the idea that we've created just takes that concept that little bit further.

"The problem still is, though, that 3D is not something that's easy to do well. So, as a marketing manager, you really have to be prepared to take a lot of advice from the experts, and not get too stuck in your ways."

TECHNOLOGIST - Jon Andrews, creative technologist, Bartle Bogle Hegarty

"If you think how long ago it was that 3D was first introduced, it's a fad that has refused to completely go away, so there must be a reason why people keep coming back to it.

"The problem has always been that, in the past, ads that embrace new technology have usually had quite weak creative ideas behind them because brands were just doing something because it was new and exciting.

"Consumers aren't stupid, and they'll recognise when they're being short-changed.

"If the format can therefore be made to be both impressive to the consumer and relevant to the brand, then suddenly the added costs and time will be worthwhile."

MEDIA PLANNER - John Willshire, head of innovation, PHD

"3D is definitely going to be attractive to brands as it's another example of being able to help enhance the consumer experience.

"But we won't reach the Holy Grail with 3D until people can view the ads without wearing the silly little glasses. Like the problem we have with augmented reality, the audience still has to perform an action to view the ads - in this case, putting on some glasses - which creates a barrier between the consumer and the product.

"So objectless 3D is what's needed, because while people may be keen to keep their glasses close to experience the ad this time, will they really still be as keen to get up and find their glasses for every ad break?"


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