By Chris Christodoulou, CEO of Saddington Baynes
Gaming technology is making waves in the advertising industry as a powerful production solution. Techniques previously reserved for video games promise to positively change the production playing field for brands, agencies and creative studios alike. That’s because tools such as Unreal Engine and Unity enable CGI artists and creatives to visualise and edit 3D assets in real-time, allowing for more streamlined creative development and production processes and, consequently, more versatile CGI asset creation, unlocking both creative vision and business value.
Since artists are able to make changes, such as adapting lighting and cameras immediately, further edits can be done within no time, cutting down creative feedback rounds. With less time spent on feedback and updates, ideas can be explored faster and, most importantly, intuitively – as creators react in the here and now to the visual assets on their screen, discovering new perspectives that underpin the execution of their ideas. In a nutshell, real-time gaming engines empower brands to tell more impactful and ambitious stories in less time.
In addition, time to market could be considerably reduced with the right planning. That’s because the speed the technology offers can, in turn, minimise the time required for a typical production. It used to be the case where creating photorealistic digital objects or even entire environments would exceed the costs of realising them physically. But with the technology available today, the process of creating computer-generated imagery – may it be big or small – has never been quicker. This in turn provides cost benefits by allowing for the creation of many more assets for the same budget.
There is no denying the creative flexibility achieved with real-time technology. It is a smart, holistic production solution that allows for more immersive online storytelling that is transforming the way creators execute compelling and successful campaigns. Take the launch of Honda’s first electric car, for instance, the Honda e. To capture the technology and fresh design of the product whilst also emulating the customer experience traditionally associated with dealerships in-store, the European digital marketing team launched an online car configurator that employs WebGL, a plug-in free cross-platform real-time experience.
This approach allows users on Honda’s website to browse and see every car option in every permutation in ways not normally possible with static configurators with limited views and options. In addition to all the standard features, such as changes to paint colours or wheel types, the user can interact with the car from almost any point of view, as well as choosing between different environments which enhances the user experience and increases dwell times.
But the benefits associated with gaming tech go way beyond storytelling. Real-time 3D assets in AR and VR, in particular, can transform the digital marketplace and harness e-commerce strategies to help companies stand out from competitors and engage with their audiences on a different level.
Studies show that, on average, three out of four shoppers choose to leave a website before completing a purchase. It is clear that brands must come up with e-commerce strategies to reassure – and ensure – the customer of its buying decision. 3D real-time assets could provide the answer.
By incorporating real-time renders in their e-commerce platforms, brands provide demanding customers with a better understanding of the product, ultimately increasing confidence in the purchase. It is not by chance, for example, that Kanye West has launched earlier this year a new feature for his Yeezy Supply e-commerce, which now lets customers dress a three-dimensional model in virtual clothes. Instead of looking at a flat image of the items, shoppers are able to turn them around and see every angle, a level of interactivity previously exclusive to in-store experiences. Kanye has tapped into the very “try before you buy” novelty many companies have now adopted, only from the comfort of customers’ homes.
In-store experiences, in turn, can be enhanced by 3D visualisation of products online. American department store chain, Macy’s, has seen an increase up to 60% in sales when incorporating AR and VR into its physical stores. Furthermore, the company also reported a 2% drop in product returns following the virtual reality expansion.
If applied to e-commerce strategies, real-time 3D assets can also reduce product returns bought online – an epidemic which many choose to ignore, even though in the United States alone, the value of returns was forecasted to reach $550 million in 2020. That’s because the technology allows for a detailed visual inspection of the product’s shape and appearance from any angle, consequently leading to better-informed decision making. If the customer knows in as much detail as possible what they are about to invest in, less are the chances of disappointment when the product is delivered.
May it be the convenience of getting products delivered to your doorstep, or of choosing between items from the comfort of your sofa, the fact is, e-commerce has become an integral part of everyday life. And, with concerns over public health likely to continue in the upcoming months, perhaps even years, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see a continued boom in the e-commerce sector.
But, due to its digital nature, the e-commerce environment is constantly changing. Brands, agencies and creative studios need to be up to date with new technologies in order to get ahead in the market. Such technologies are the ones that will, ultimately, meet the needs of demanding customers that engage most, if not exclusively, with content that speaks directly to them. In the age of personalisation, interactive and customised real-time visual assets may be the secret weapon for companies to cut through an overload of messages and generate greater consumer engagement.
About Chris Christodoulou
Chris Christodoulou joined Saddington Baynes in 1994 as a Digital Retoucher. Now, nearly 30 years later, Chris is the CEO. He pushed Saddington Baynes to become one of the first studios to harness CGI in-house. Their mission is to create sensational imagery that inspires brand devotion. To achieve this, Saddington Baynes teamed up with neuromarketing consultancy CloudArmy to develop Engagement Insights®️ – a world-first approach by a production company, using neuroscience to measure non-conscious perception. We can now discover the emotional impact of imagery and in more recent years, develop and launch brands.