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Why the Future of Advertising Is in Three Dimensions

Marketers will increasingly need to expand their understanding of the platforms in which their brands live

By Phil Rowley


This idea that our media is about to become “dimensionalized” is fascinating.

For many years our ads and their touchpoints have been delivered on a flat plane. Whether outdoor, TV or even digital banners, creators only really needed to worry about one “side” of the placement—the side facing the consumer.

But that could be about to change.


If the 2000s were about the digitization of existing traditional media—with images, videos and music uploaded onto the nascent internet for the first time—the 2020s will be about “virtualization,” with objects, people, places and structures volumetrically scanned and uploaded into a dimensionalized internet.

What the 3D Open Web could become

At this point, it seems almost obligatory to drop in the “M” word. Yes, that one. The one on everyone’s lips now. But I am ambivalent about the term “Metaverse” because to me it can sound sci-fi and far-fetched and can intimidate clients by sounding complex and expensive.

Instead, the alternative term “3D Open Web” might work better because it clues us into the future direction of our media interactions. In its simplest form, brands will soon have to think about their assets in “z-space,” a third dimension, with their products and services viewed from all angles, and able to be picked up and played with.

The dimensionalization of media will also afford new creative opportunities by ignoring the real-world rules. Phil Rowley, head of futures, Omnicom Media Group

Already we are seeing some online retailers like Ford and Tesco incorporating “digital twins” into their e-commerce platforms to provide rotatable views of products from above and below. But these remain on the flat plane of a website. As we progress, they may soon need to be integrated into interactive three-dimensional worlds like Roblox and Fortnite, birthing a whole new set of best practices for products in this space, and indeed the media used to promote them.

This will be a watershed moment indeed, but even though we have witnessed the mind-blowing acceleration of technology in the last few decades, we are still fond of “Skeuomorphism,” the act of using the functionalities of real-world objects as our templates for our digital experiences. For instance, the web still has “pages,” the “save” symbol is still a floppy disk and we still fill our ecommerce “basket.”

Crucially, we may still want to retain the vestiges of our understanding of the real world as a basis for interaction and this gives brands an opportunity to recreate realistic versions of their product’s functional benefits within a 3D Open Web. In short, cars should accelerate with visceral excitement and drinks should pour enticingly, even in digitized environments.“


However, conversely, the dimensionalization of media will also afford new creative opportunities by ignoring the real-world rules. In selective circumstances, a product may benefit from bending physical laws, for instance, an airline flying its aircraft down the streets of a virtual London. Or maybe an entirely new advertising canvas upon structures previously unimagined, for instance, products advertised on the clothing of loitering avatars.

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