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3D Effect Digital Billboards —Unsustainable Stunt or Stellar Stuff?

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by William Board, Publisher OOH Today

3-D Digital Billboards have been the toast of Out of Home creative lately with big brands like PlayStation, Netflix, Fortnite and most recently Nike, among the few, investing in the latest cutting edge of OOH technology. Or is it bleeding edge technology? 

Referred as anamorphic illusion technology, the name is derived from the word anamorphosis, which is the art of bending images through optical illusions and as in the brands mentioned above, relies on viewers to be standing or viewing from a specific angle to actually see or realize the full effect of the finished creative.

It’s also known as a ‘forced perspective’ as reported by OOH Today in May 2021, Creating Immersive 3D Experiences via Digital  Billboards, and shared in a recent conversation, with Daktronics OOH Strategic Marketing Manager, Joni Schmeichel, The Skinny on 3-D Digital Billboards

Forced perspective creates the illusion of depth by manipulating the scale and size of images based on the viewers’ vantage point. The creative challenge is to take flat images and manipulate them to appear dimensional and as mentioned previously, visible to certain vantage points. Using today’s digital screens(which Joni’s company Daktronics produces) which are brighter and higher definition, coupled with extremely fast microprocessors, make the images possible and persuasive.

Forced perspective creates the illusion of depth by manipulating the scale and size of images based on the viewers’ vantage point

From limited specific viewing locations the ads appear to pop out of the billboard towards the viewer. We noticed when watching online videos of the 3-D billboards, which have been highly publicized the last 12 months, the people in the foreground picked up by the camera, are walking or carrying on without any visible notice of the OOH and what is going on above them. Check out the pedestrians away from the screen, next time you view a 3-D billboard ‘video of the day’ released on your favorite social platform.

This leads us to wonder, who is the 3-D effect ad really intended for? If the audience is limited to specific areas, i.e. by very definition a limited audience, it’s certainly not the pedestrians near by. As is in many cases, the greatest impact comes via online when and where the best viewing position can be selected, captured and then shared via social media. Which as we know, is a great thing thereby giving the OOH, err, brands, more legs and greater audience. Additionally, I suspect as well for any company carrying a bit more debt and a bit less revenue, use this new shiny object to impress impatient investors and of course be the sales door opener for prospective brands and agencies.

use this new shiny object to impress impatient investors and of course be the sales door opener

Is 3-D the stellar stuff, as we like to say, to become the next big thing in OOH? I don’t think so. No more so than full motion on digital billboards, which is stellar stuff without question. My misgivings lie in what the risk verses reward analysis shakes out in creating and producing. Admittedly, I do not have a full grasp on the details of production. Our one person research team reports that cost and labor is intensive, with some quotes upward of $500,000 and months to produce. And you were balking over the cost of vinyl and a 36 hour or less turn time.

And you were balking over the cost of vinyl and a 36 hour or less turn time

Like everything tech, in the future, production cost and time should be reduced. Until then, if you’re contemplating an anamorphic billboard, have the social media and PR team at the ready to blast to the millions to justify the investment. Or at least to the Company’s Board and any news outlet eager to publish (guilty). 

The observations and opinions are the sole expression of OOH Today’s publisher William Board and editorial staff. 

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