What if there were a mobile ad that made viewers feel like they were inside a smartphone instead of just looking at one? What if the ad seemed to jump out as the user scrolled down, offering a three-dimensional perspective? Sound like the future? Well, the future may be closer than it seems.
As brands look to pump more mojo into mobile ads—criticized for years as ineffective appeals that cram creative into small screens—marketers are trying out new eye-popping ads in 3-D. While there has been plenty of talk of multidimension technology for some time now, this is no gimmick. Observers say these flashy promos offer a first glimpse at what virtual reality marketing will come to look like.
"The mobile industry has kind of shifted to virtual reality—that's what's getting all the buzz," said Jeremy Sigel, director of mobile for North America at Essence. "3-D mobile ads are the gateway to virtual reality."
Jameson whiskey recently created what it claimed was the first 3-D Facebook and Instagram ad, produced with a technique that makes it appear as though a shot glass is flying off the screen. The campaign followed the news that Facebook will let users upload 360-degree videos as part of its $2 billion acquisition of Oculus Rift, meaning consumers could start to see lots of similar posts from brands in their feeds.
"3-D adds an aesthetic element," said Layne Harris, vp of innovation technology at 360i, one of the agencies behind the Jameson campaign. "It has the ability to be more immersive and allow you to engage in ways that are different from the standard 2-D ads." The ad was created by the Facebook Creative Shop and Phear.
Ford is another brand making use of video through 3-D mobile ads. To promote its 2014 F-150 truck, the automaker and agency Team Detroit worked with Amobee on a campaign in which consumers could swipe a finger across a mobile screen for a 360-degree view of the pickup.
The campaign boosted purchase consideration 40 percent and brand favorability 20 percent. Encouraged, Ford ran a follow-up push for the 2015 Mustang that packed in more video clips.
"This type of information would typically have been told through linear video," said Andrea Zuehlk, Ford's digital marketing manager. "With 3-D, the consumer can explore at their own pace and in more detail than through video alone."
Mazda Norway was the first brand to test an ad earlier this year whose technology made it appear as though a car was floating on a website. Clicking on the ad enabled users to play around with the 2015 Mazda3.
Three-dimensional ads aren't a silver bullet for mobile advertising, however. The formats are only offered by a small number of vendors and are rarely bought programmatically. What's more, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, only 27 percent of mobile marketers have bought programmatic ads.
"They're still at the experimental and early-adoption phase," said Joe Laszlo, senior director of the IAB Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence.
That said, Laszlo does expect the eye-catching ads to gain traction once more mobile shops start offering them to brands. "Once those sorts of ads become standardized, then it becomes very natural for them to be traded through programmatic buying," he said.