3D Advertising Meets TV – Will Brands Benefit ?


“Wow, dad, that was way cool!”

That was the reaction of one of my kids after seeing Toy Story 3 in 3D at our local movie theater. What if your TV ads could get the same reaction? And more to the point, with 3D TV’s imminent arrival, could they? 

3D TV: A Reality?

3D TV – What We Know

Consumers are very familiar with 3D, based primarily on their experiences at theme parks and the movie theater. However, in-home penetration of 3D TV’s is still nascent, and if you’re like me, you’ve yet to meet the friend who has actually shelled out money for one. 

Yet, we do know something about how consumers think about 3D TV. In a recent joint Nielsen / Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing research study (disclosure: I work for Nielsen), we learned the following about consumers’ views of 3D TV: 

  • 48% said they were more engaged in a show when watching 3D programming
  • 42% said they would watch more TV if they had 3D
  • 77% said 3D TV is well suited for specialty programming like sports and movies

3D TV: Sports Programming

3D Adoption Barriers

All of this sounds great, but the study also uncovered barriers to adoption. Not surprisingly, barriers included the cost of a 3D TV set, the special glasses required, and the current lack of 3D programming. Cost and content will likely be addressed over time as scale production brings down cost and increased penetration drives more 3D programming. 

But the glasses? A real issue. Specifically, fully 89% of consumers said they didn’t like the glasses because they impede their ability to multi-task while watching TV. 

Glasses: 3D TV Adoption Barrier?

3D Ads

Ads in 3D have been around for a few years, although few people have actually seen them. 

Sobe Lifewater and Dreamworks‘ Monsters vs. Aliens both aired 3D ads in the 2009 SuperBowl. And, more recently, ESPN convinced Gillette, Sony and Pixar to produce 3D ads for the new ESPN 3D network

But, I’m not aware of any 3D ad testing that would tell us anything meaningful about how 3D ads perform versus their 2D counterparts. 

Potential 3D Ad Impact

Having said this, here are a few first thoughts about the potential of 3D advertising: 

1.  3D ads will deliver more impact than 2D ads. This is because: 

  • 3D programming is more immersive and engaging. The Nielsen research outlined above shows that many people find 3D programming much more engaging. Also, real world experience shows that the same ad scores better in cinema than it does on a home TV set. The size and scale of the cinema experience makes it more immersive, and therefore, the ads are also more effective. The same will likely be true of 3D ads.
  • There will be fewer distractions. 3D requires special glasses (at least in its current form). And special glasses reduce consumer’s ability to multi-task while watching TV and your ads. We already know that the same ad scores better in on-line video than on TV in the current environment. At least part of the reason for this, in my opinion, is that people watch on-line programming in a “lean forward” manner while watching TV in a “lean back” mode—with all of the inherent distractions therein (e.g. kids, dogs, spouses, etc.). 3D glasses will reduce multi-tasking, increase attentiveness, and improve ad performance.

2. Ad performance differences by genre will increase. If consumers watch 3D TV disproportionately for special programming like Sports and Movies, these genres will outperform other genres for TV ad performance, all things being equal. We already know that ad performance for a given category and brand can and usually does differ by genre. 3D TV has the potential to further amplify these genre effects. 

3. Emotion and Action Driven Ads will be Stand-Outs. Neural research has shown that TV is better for communicating emotion than PC or Mobile mediums. 3D promises to take this a step further thru its immersive nature. Brands with strong emotional benefit messaging are likely to play especially well. The same will be true for brands which can deliver action based benefits—cars, sports products and other action driven categories are likely to be winners in the 3D world of ads. 

3D TV: Emotional Ad Brand Communication

3D TV Ads – My Take

At the risk of being labeled a Luddite, I’m still skeptical about the adoption of 3D TV. The glasses are a real barrier. But who knows—new technologies are already promising 3D without them, although they are not without their own limitations. But, all manner of things that people have been skeptical about, including Facebook and YouTube, turned out to be huge. 

3D is yet another potential factor in an array of factors—e.g. program content, placement, form factors (TV vs. PC vs. Mobile, etc.), and now 3D—that will likely impact your brand building and communications effectiveness. 

Marketers can look at this panoply of choices as complicated and bewildering, or as I would prefer–the future golden age of advertising. Or, to put it in my son’s lingo: 

Wow, those ads are way cool!

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2 Responses to 3D Advertising Meets TV – Will Brands Benefit ?

  1. When in Japan over the summer we went to see a number of set manufacturers to see what they were offering. In a phrase, the 3D experience is ‘a way to go.’ It was intrusive and unsettling and no way matched watching 3D in the cinema. As for sport (we watched soccer and baseball) it was poor. Our recommendation is that advertisers shouldn’t use it currently unless they want to be associated with some gimmick – and ridicule.

    • beardrs says:

      Graham–Interesting point. I didn’t mention it in the post, but the study I referred to also showed that consumer purchase interest actually declined after consumers viewed a 3D TV in a living room like situation. So, I think your comment is highly germane–3D may not now be ready for prime time–but something to keep a close eye on nonetheless assuming the viewing experience improves. Randall

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