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By Dani Gibson | Senior Writer

July 20, 2022 | 5 min read

3D out-of-home (OOH) billboards, a new technology enabling the creation of hyper-realistic ads that drive engagement, offer a whole new canvas to advertisers – but will horror advertisers in particular bite off more than they can chew?

While the sector is creating groundbreaking displays, Netflix’s latest series Resident Evil recently revealed a 3D NYC billboard, with a realistic zombie-like creature (a licker, if you know the lore) violently escaping from a glass cage. This gruesome spectacle has sparked debate – was this too frightening for such a public space? The question comes as realistic 3D OOH billboards have been wowing nations across the globe.

We caught up with four experts from The Drum Awards for Out of Home jury past and present to find out their thoughts, and if this type of display advertising should be more regulated.

Heawon Yoo, executive vice-president, marketing, Lightbox OOH Video Network

The advertising on 3D billboards continues to impress me with its creativity. Netflix’s Resident Evil is meant to startle, and perhaps scare, which I think it totally succeeds at. Some may question the appropriateness of such frightening imagery in a public space, but I think there are a few qualifiers that stop it from crossing a line. One is the fantastical aspect of the creature. I liken it to Jurassic World dinosaurs – they’re scary, but they don’t currently exist. And two: the contextual relevance of the environment of Times Square. Some may argue that there are scarier things to be seen.

Jokes aside, 3D executions literally push the boundaries of the medium in an amazing way, but they should be approached with the same considerations that apply to more traditional OOH platforms. I imagine other non-3D executions for Resident Evil featuring the same creature might be placed in other OOH environments – perhaps even family-friendly ones – without scrutiny. The fact that this 3D version brings it to life is not a reason to enforce regulation.

Jean-Christophe Conti, chief executive officer, VIOOH

It is important to remember how context and data can help advertisers maximize the relevance of their campaign by understanding what audiences can potentially be exposed to a specific creative in a broadcast, public environment. Utilizing data triggers such as sunrise and sunset could be used to only display after dark when children are more likely to be at home. Similarly, within programmatic campaigns, geo-targeting anonymized mobile audiences that index highly for certain genres and interests can be used to increase relevance.

I think these 3D ads are just the beginning of the types of tech advancements we’re going to see in the digital OOH (DOOH) world, and I look forward to seeing how the flexibility and efficiency of programmatic can help take these advancements even further.

Anna Bager, president and chief executive officer, Out of Home Advertising Association of America

Against the backdrop of the very diverse Times Square environment, the use of jaw-dropping and immersive anamorphic, 3D OOH creative has been, and remains, an impactful and surprising way for brands to connect with their desired audiences – especially as tourists return to NYC. Moreover, as an industry, OOH media providers take seriously the role they play in placing advertisements on their myriad displays in communities across the nation, and they strive to respect local standards of content acceptability.

Avital Pinchevsky, executive vice-president and global executive creative director, FCB Chicago

It is very well done and a good example of how technology can bring an idea, quite literally, to life. It’s attention-grabbing and fun and makes good use of the property. It’s not the most conceptual OOH, but it’s certainly enjoyable and breakthrough.

I don’t think this should be considered too scary to be displayed in a public space in 2022. People, including kids, are quite desensitized due to constant exposure to video games, movies with villains in them and more. This is not the first 3D monster in the world, and it won’t be the last.

This isn't the first time Netflix has displayed a horrifying experience, last year Publicis Italy released ’A Classic Horror Story’ to play on the public’s fear of strangers.

The Drum Awards for Out of Home is now open for entries. Make sure to enter before Wednesday 14 September.

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