Next 3D Frontier: Bigscreen Ads

After a tentative start, Europe is embracing 3D in-theater advertising. Most territories are lining up 3D spots to catch the Avatar wave in December, with expectations of growth in 2010. Some territories have embraced the potential of having cinema advertising match the films screening, while others have reservations.

In the Netherlands, advertisers are unwilling to invest in the more costly format. And in Italy, ads are shown on different projectors from the main feature, and these are not 3D-ready. Price is commonly mentioned as a barrier, with advertisers worried that 3D spots are expensive to produce, yet only play with a few films on a small proportion of screens.

"Our greatest challenge is to get advertisers (and media agencies) to understand that 3D productions are affordable," says Espen Strand Henriksen, marketing manager with Norway movie ad distribution company CAPA Kinoreklame.

The country's first 3D campaign, for Hennig Olsen ice cream, ran over the summer. France also kicked off a 3D spot from candy company Haribo. In the U.K., cinema ad company Pearl & Dean found the range of 3D options, and therefore costs, too broad for advertisers. Over the past year it has worked with production houses to produce a more structured offer.

"That has given advertisers a bit more confidence, and with the number of screens increasing quite dramatically they are able to get a better return on their 3D commercials than a year ago," says Mike Hope-Milne, enterprise director.

Pearl & Dean also ran its first campaigns during the summer, a promo for Nickelodeon and an ambitious interactive 3D game for telecom company O2.

In Portugal, there's concern that family films, which rep the largest number of 3D releases, aren't the best vehicles for splashy screen ads.

"Most 3D releases, at least in 2009, are family and animation movies, which exclude some important brands and segments. For example alcoholic drinks, which represent a huge percentage of cinema advertising," says Mafalda Malafaya of Screenvision in Lisbon.

In Belgium, Screenvision began wooing advertisers for Avatar in October. Aware that time is short to produce 3D spots, it is suggesting simpler options such as pulling 3D scenes out of 2D spots or adding a 3D logo, with ad costs starting around e10,000 ($15,000).

By Ian Mundell, Variety