Ben Cyzer, co-founder of Artificial Artists, explains why brands need a 3D strategy.
In an interview on the second day of the Cannes Lions Festival, Accenture Interactive CEO Brian Whipple discussed the company's recent acquisition of creative agency, Droga5, including the future of the creative advertising industry. It seems that this partnership will showcase a push for tech and creativity to merge together to reinvent the customer experience – dubbed ‘the evolution of creativity’ at this year’s festival. During the discussion, Whipple reference ‘Computer Generated Imagery’ as a key division of the group, capable of allowing ‘real progress’
It’s refreshing to hear an industry figurehead identify CG as a crucial component to the present and future landscape of marketing, particularly given that CG-based content hasn’t featured nearly as extensively in digital media and mobile as it should.
So, why has CG been historically so inaccessible for mobile? Most advertising VFX and animation studios are still built and equipped for traditional ads (preferably of the 30-second or longer variety). The work these studios create is admirable and does justice to the vision of their agency clients – however, the production pipeline they use is both cost and time prohibitive for mobile-first content. Given the continued rapid growth of the digital and mobile advertising sector – global mobile ad spend is set to hit $165bn (£129bn) this year according to WARC – this is a missed opportunity.
So how can we make CG animation less exclusive and more accessible for brands to apply across digital and mobile? One solution comes in the form of real-time rendering or real-time 3D. This is a technology pioneered by the gaming industry that enables photo realistic graphics and animation to be rendered in real-time.
Gaming engines such as Unity and Unreal (from the makers of ‘Fortnite’) have been rapidly improving in recent years and have been crucial in enabling brands to create high quality interactive experiences in the VR and AR space. When these same engines are used for video content however, they are able to truly disrupt the CG content creation pipeline, particularly for mobile.
But why is CG so important for mobile and what are the benefits of real-time 3D for brands? From a content creation standpoint, a major benefit to real-time 3D is the ‘non-linear’ creative process, particularly when producing CG content. Traditional animation is built like a house – once built, you can’t go back and re-design the ground floor, you’d have to knock the whole house down. This makes it poorly suited for rapid, large-scale deployments.
Real-time 3D, on the other hand, is an interactive and iterative process, meaning components are configurable. Environments, assets, camera angles, logos and fonts can all be instantly swapped and adapted. This enables brands to be truly reactive and responsive to audience needs in a way that was never previously achievable.
From a marketer’s standpoint, once a brand’s asset or product is built for real-time 3D, it can be deployed at speed across a number of interactive channels, including the web (product configurators), social and eCommerce (CG product videos) or superimposed into the real world via AR experiences.
For example, IKEA received recognition in 2017 for an AR app built with Apple’s ARKit, that superimposed real-time 3D furniture into living rooms. Whilst the app was a great demonstration of the potential benefits of AR, a more significant investment might be for IKEA to build all of their products – or at least their best sellers – in real-time 3D. That way customers can interact with their product range in numerous ways across a range of channels, from AR to eCommerce to in-store to out-of-home. IKEA’s app seems to be making significant steps towards this.
Meanwhile AR deployment is becoming far easier and more versatile. AR can now be experienced through the web, rather than through downloadable apps (see Apple’s recently launched ARKit 3), through search (see Google’s AR addition to its search function), and also through navigation applications (Google maps AR is currently available through its Pixel smartphones). The widely predicted launch of more affordable and mainstream AR headsets is also likely in the not-too-distant future, at which point the online and offline worlds will seamlessly merge to create a new ‘blended reality’ that many are starting to refer to as the ‘mirrorworld’.
Real-time 3D will be the content that drives the modern customer experience, so it’s important brands get ‘3D-ready’ today. This means putting a strategy and process in place that enables swift creation and deployment of interactive 3D content across a multiple of channels.