Brands Probe the Third Dimension

A father at an aquarium reaches into the tank, carves out a block of water full of manta rays and fish and brings it home, placing it into a Samsung television set in his living room. When he and his family don 3-D glasses and settle onto the sofa, the sea life swims out of the TV toward them. “Ever wonder how amazing it would be to experience life in another dimension?” asks the voiceover.

The commercial, titled “Wonder-Full,” from Leo Burnett in Chicago, began running in 3-D in cinemas last Friday before the DreamWorks animated movie How to Train Your Dragon. The ad is part of the electronics company’s first push for its new line of 3-D televisions and carries the brand message “Dedicated to wonder.”

“3-D is a new dimension, literally and figuratively,” says Peggy Ang, vp of marketing communications for the consumer electronics division of Samsung Electronics America. “Everybody has taken to the experience in the theaters, and consumers are saying, ‘How can I take this home?'”

“Wonder-Full” is one of two 3-D commercials that Samsung is running in theaters. Another spot features Monsters vs. Aliens, and similar to the first ad, it shows a young girl taking the 3-D movie experience home by cutting a cube of the action out of the screen, taking it home and replicating the experience on her family’s Samsung TV.

While Samsung is showcasing the experience offered by its new product line, it isn’t the only company capitalizing on the 3-D movie trend, which has exploded this year with the release of films like James Cameron’s record-breaking Avatar, Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon and Warner Bros.’ Clash of the Titans. Marketers as unexpected as packaged-goods client Purina and even the Air Force are getting into the 3-D game to tap into the growing consumer interest fueled by Hollywood.

“In the past three months, we’ve seen more interest from advertisers than you can humanly imagine,” says Cliff Marks, president of sales and marketing at NCM Media Networks, the digital in-theater network that includes AMC Entertainment, Cinemark Holdings and Regal Entertainment Group. “We all have to agree that Avatar has changed the world.”

Driving the investment in 3-D advertising is a confluence of events. It’s not only the influx of 3-D content coming out of Hollywood. It’s also this year’s introduction of 3-D product lines for the home from companies like Samsung, Panasonic and LG Electronics, and the upcoming availability of new distribution channels, as networks like ESPN, which will broadcast the World Cup in 3-D in June, begin to offer 3-D programming.

“We’d all be fooling ourselves if we said it was a fad at this point,” Marks adds. “3-D is here to stay, and consumers love it. It is one of the most exciting opportunities to come our way in cinema in a long time. As brands learn how to use it, both cinema and TV will benefit.”

Despite the hype at the box office, the reach of 3-D advertising is still limited. Samsung’s Ang projects U.S. sales of 3-D TVs this year in the 3-4 million range, but that number represents only about 10 percent of overall TV sales. And cinema networks, which have a limited number of 3-D screens available, are struggling to keep up with the deluge of 3-D film content. Only about 8 percent of total screens in the U.S. are capable of showing 3-D movies, according to the National Association of Theatre Owners.

Still, advertisers that are making early plays in the 3-D arena can benefit from the hype surrounding the 3-D movie releases. “It’s a short-lived opportunity, but it is a real one right now,” says Ken Venturi, CCO and evp at NCM Media Networks.