NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Three-D advertising is already making in-roads on TV, in magazines and even in beef-jerky marketing. Now it's making its debut in the medium that ushered in the 3-D renaissance: the big screen.
Cinema-advertising company Screenvision and Wrigley-Mars' Skittles will premiere the first 3-D cinema ad, "Skittles Transplant," tomorrow exclusively in 461 theaters on 762 screens before showings of "Battle for Terra," a new 3-D animated film from Lionsgate featuring the voices of Danny Glover, Dennis Quaid and Evan Rachel Wood.
The first 3-D movie ad was the result of a long-standing partnership between Screenvision and Publicis' MediaVest, which last year became the first media agency to conduct a cinema upfront, with $20 million in bookings. Norm Chait, MediaVest's VP-director of out of home, said 3-D was a perfect fit for the Mars portfolio of brands, and Skittles in particular.
"Many of the brands are about fun and entertainment, and the technology makes us nimble enough to take advantage of these opportunities," he said.
Worth the extra investment?
There was initial concern that converting Skittles' existing two-dimensional ad into 3-D wouldn't be worth the time or additional investment, Mr. Chait added. But 3-D ads can be turned around in a week, said David Martin, CEO of Legend Films, a 3-D production company. "Once an ad has been converted into 3-D, whether you use it for cinema, iPhone or a 3-D-ready TV set, you've got a 3-D master, so it can be used for everything," he said. "It's very affordable, and a lot less than if you were to shoot the ad in 3-D."
Mike Chico, Screenvision's exec VP-sales and marketing, estimated that converting ads to 3-D can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $70,000. "Marketers spend hundreds of thousands creating these ads, so it's not terribly expensive to convert," he said. "We really focus on how our brand awareness can drive purchase intent, and with that high an awareness level, they're gonna move product."
The Skittles ad will run in Screenvision's "premium" pod position, just before the movie trailers, a slot that will maximize its opportunity to be seen. Ads running in the premium position receive 72% total recall, according to Screenvision research, with 46% unaided recall of specific brands.
Needs to be in more theaters
But in order for the suddenly hot-again technology to grow among more clients, it needs a bigger theater count. Screenvision's network of roughly 1,000 3-D screens accounts for about 58% of the cinema industry, which reached a record 2,000 3-D screens in March to accommodate the release of DreamWorks' "Monsters vs. Aliens." But with 3-D digital projectors setting theaters back an average of $70,000 for installation, the technology's expansion fell far short of the 5,000 screens DreamWorks hoped would be available to launch the movie. Plus, the significantly smaller "Battle for Terra," which the Skittles ad will accompany, is expected to gross a fraction of the opening-weekend haul for "Monsters vs. Aliens."
"Many clients want national distribution and scale, and they can get that through cinema. On the 3-D-technology side, the upside is we can grow as they grow," Mr. Chait said. "We also want to gauge consumers' interest in 3-D and their willingness to put the glasses on. Part of it is matching up the right film with the right brand."
With more than a half-dozen major 3-D releases set for the second half of 2009, including Disney-Pixar's "Up," 3-D sequels to "Ice Age" and "Final Destination," and James Cameron's "Avatar," marketers could conceivably have their pick of the litter. But, Mr. Chait said, "the goal isn't necessarily to buy down in the film level. We want to make sure we're reaching a certain amount of audience. We're not necessarily looking to change the model."