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Creative Creative Works Out-of-home

10 best 3D billboards: ‘They’re blurring lines between content, OOH & experiential’

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By Amy Houston, Senior Reporter

December 14, 2022 | 10 min read

For The Drum’s Out-of-Home Deep Dive, we look back at some of the best 3D anamorphic billboard ads of recent years and catch up with Amplify’s executive creative director Alex Wilson about this increasingly popular marketing trend.

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Amazon Prime 3D’s billboard for The Wheel of Time at Piccadilly Circus in London

Hyper-realistic 3D OOH ads have been stunning passersby on busy streets in China, South Korea, the US, Japan and the UK recently. The creative campaigns blur the lines between technology and reality while showcasing that creativity in advertising really is limitless. “The potential that can be unlocked working directly with IP and talent is truly exciting,” says Amplify executive creative director Alex Wilson, who recently worked on Amazon Prime’s 3D OOH campaign at Piccadilly Circus.

“Creating 3D anamorphic billboards using characters, environments and IP usually restricted to being seen on TV or cinema screens is a huge world-building opportunity, especially when the studios and creators collaborate to bring them to life. This allows us to have characters break the fourth wall, interact with our IRL environments and blur the lines between content, OOH and experiential like never before.”

From Balenciaga’s collaboration with Fortnite and Rosamund Pike fronting Amazon Prime’s trippy campaign, to Glenfiddich’s Highland stag, brands are realizing the creative potential of these larger-than-life illusions.

“It’s an execution that can be witnessed by few IRL, but experienced by many through content. A content engine can drive interaction and conversation through social, either as an impactful stunt moment or as part of a synchronized campaign plan,” he adds.

Creative OOH can be used to tell part of a story or the whole story, but you only have people’s attention IRL for a very short window, so how do you make that the most compelling, entertaining and informative part of your campaign?

“Whether it lives as an impactful moment in time that can live on through social, or as part of a bigger campaign story, it’s a powerful tool for brands to harness in the right way,” Wilson notes.

So, here are our favorite 3D billboard ads so far...

WhatsApp

WhatsApp took over Piccadilly Lights, Twitch and Roblox in the final phase of its global brand campaign to highlight the messaging app’s privacy features.

Call of Duty

Activision ramped up its Call of Duty marketing efforts with a 3D billboard ad in London that excited gamers before the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II full game launch.

Running on London’s famous Piccadilly Lights, the short spot began with Soap MacTavish dramatically busting through a glass panel and cutting the power, before the screen eerily transitions to an outdoor view where Ghost pops up from the grass.

Green strobe lights then beam toward viewers as the infamous Call of Duty logo pops up on the screen.

TV2

Tinka og sjælens spejl (or Tinka and the Mirror of the Soul) tells the story of the half-elf Tinka and her friend Lasse coexisting between the goblin and the human world.

To mark the third series of the popular family-friendly Christmas TV show, a digital out-of-home (DOOH) ad appeared at the Field’s shopping mall in Copenhagen.

Coach

Fashion house Coach tapped Lil Nas X as its brand ambassador and featured the rapper in its animated 3D out-of-home (OOH) campaign.

In the ad, viewers see the larger-than-life hitmaker walk around, reach out from the screen and grab a handbag. The campaign’s message is about embracing all the different facets of yourself with confidence – and inspiring others to do the same.

Meta

This was Meta Reality Lab’s first 3D Piccadilly Lights takeover, with the wider campaign running until the end of the year.

To promote the Meta Quest 2 virtual reality (VR) headset, the social media giant digitally transformed the building to highlight that you can play and interact with people from all over the world and transport to anywhere within the universe.

Balenciaga and Fortnite

Spanish luxury fashion house Balenciaga (which has since faced severe criticism after its Christmas campaign was found to include several references to child abuse) teamed up with Fortnite to entrance citizens of London, New York, Tokyo and Seoul by creating a spectacular real-world immersive 3D billboard experience.

The attention-grabbing OOH execution showcased a Balenciaga-wearing Fortnite favorite Doggo looming larger than life over the sidewalks, bringing the partnership to the physical world in a very entertaining, and potentially somewhat jarring, way.

The billboard scene was assembled in Unreal Engine and the team leveraged real-time ray tracing and physically-based lighting materials to make Doggo seem like he is truly in each location.

Amazon Prime

Amplify created an anamorphic billboard for Amazon to promote Prime Video’s forthcoming fantasy series The Wheel of Time.

The show’s lead actor, Rosamund Pike, was at the center of the live-action 3D illusion that debuted in Piccadilly Circus.

Further drops in key markets included New York’s Times Square and Tokyo’s Cross Shinjuku Vision. Each site had a bespoke illusion to fit the space around it.

Amplify, which counts Sony, Google and Airbnb as its clients, used a combination of greenscreen, CGI and VFX, collaborating with the show’s VFX teams at Amazon Studios and MPC.

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Netflix

Ever been stopped in your tracks by a zombie tiger in the middle of London? Netflix brought Piccadilly Lights to a standstill with the 3D billboard campaign to launch Zack Snyder’s blockbuster movie Army of the Dead.

The 20m tall activation featured a lifelike VFX zombie tiger called Valentine, created by acclaimed visual effects supervisor Marcus Taormina (Bird Box, Guardians Of The Galaxy), roaming around post-apocalyptic Las Vegas.

At the time Snyder noted that the visual effects team actually visited Carole Baskin’s Big Cat Rescue (pre-Tiger King fame) to use the tigers as inspiration for Valentine’s movements.

Deliveroo

Delivery service Deliveroo tapped into 3D advertising hoping to entice hungry Londoners with its tasty-looking billboard.

The immersive spring campaign ‘Food. We get it’ was brought to life by Will & James, a multidisciplinary creative team, who wrote, cut and animated the supporting material for the Piccadilly site using existing footage from the TV executions.

Glenfiddich

Scottish single malt whisky brand Glenfiddich stopped passersby in their tracks with a 3D activation at Piccadilly Circus.

The next chapter in the ‘Where Next?’ campaign features the brand’s instantly recognizable stag in its natural Highland habitat and was brought to life by London-based creative agency Space.

Viewers may get a surprise at the end of the film though, as the stag appears to leap right out of the billboard.

From the wow factor of 3D billboards to ads that grab people at the right time and in literally the right place, innovation in out-of-home is soaring. Find out more in our latest Deep Dive.

Creative Creative Works Out-of-home

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