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You’re walking through Times Square, and your eyes go inevitably to the screen up ahead. You see a calming ad for the latest Netflix romance series — dreamy. The board cycles to the next ad. It looks like a big, wooden box with “Umbrella Corporation” written on it. The box quickly opens, and you see what appears to be a scary creature inside.

The creature turns away, hops to the opposite side of the box and — wow, suddenly it’s jumping right toward you. Good thing there’s glass there to contain it. Uh-oh … that glass doesn’t look very sturdy. The creature rams his head and then his hand into the glass, hard. The glass cracks, and his bloody arm shoots out. It looks like he’s coming right off the screen as he extracts himself from the broken glass box, gives a few angry yowls at the people walking down below, and suddenly hops toward you off the screen.

Behind him, the mutilated box blurs out, and suddenly the words “Resident Evil” appear, with what seems to be a release date. Talk about making an entrance. Since the board went up in Times Square recently, it’s generated tons of views on YouTube and lots of attention for the new “Resident Evil” Netflix series.

Three-dimensional billboards are making a comeback — not that they ever really left. The popularity of these digital boards has ebbed and flowed as technology makes strides, stalls, then takes off again.

Done right, 3D billboards can be an amazing way to capture attention, go viral and get people interested in your product. Unfortunately, we’ve also seen a lot of uninspired or poorly conceived content, and we want to keep you from making those mistakes because you can waste a lot of money on something that should be really cool.

Use our step-by-step guide to making the best 3D billboard to guide you through the creative process, including determining your lead time and how much a 3D billboard costs.

What Are 3D Billboards?

Three-dimensional billboards make it seem as though the creative is popping out at you from the digital board. They offer an immersive, rather than passive, experience, putting the passerby right in the high-stakes action. High-traffic locations, such as Times Square, airports, the Las Vegas strip, make the best locations, places where people can stop and take in the full video.

Three-dimensional billboards have become especially popular in Asian countries, including Japan, China and Korea, though recently, they have taken off in London and the United States.

How Does a 3D Billboard Work?

Three-D billboards are not actually three-dimensional. Technically, they are anamorphic, which means they rely on purposeful distortion to create an image. Anamorphic lenses make the image unequally magnified on its perpendicular axes, giving a flat image dimension when you view it from a certain angle. Standard animation creates the anamorphic illusion.

The long and short: People can only see the “three-dimension” effect when they stand in a certain place.

NYC Midtown 3D Billboard

How Long Is a 3D Billboard Animation?

Most boards require you to stick to a standard 15, 30 or 60 seconds.

What Creative Do Companies Produce for 3D Billboards?

The files used for 3D billboards follow the same requirements as for all full-motion screens. You submit a standard video file as you would for any digital video billboard. Follow the individual specs laid out by the vendor, which will differ depending on your site.

If you haven’t worked with a creative studio before, your agency or the vendor should be able to suggest one. Make sure they have experience filming for digital OOH — you can ask for references or to see examples of what they have done previously.

What Is the Lead Time for a 3D Billboard?

The lead time for a 3D billboard is generally about eight weeks, though it may vary based on how complex your creative is. Even the simplest creative will require a few weeks for implementation, though. Other factors that can influence lead time include:

  • The illusion’s complexity.
  • Who produces the video.
  • The specs for the digital out of home unit.
  • Whether you already have the assets or need to film them.

What Billboards Are Used for 3D Billboards?

They mostly pop up on corners of buildings, with the corner incorporated into the creative as in the “Resident Evil” example. Vendors can only use digital units with movement capability, and only a select number in each city have the right dimensions to create a 3D billboard. It’s important to keep in mind that 3D billboards don’t have any type of special screen capability. They are based on design/production techniques.

Also remember, safety first: Billboards should be located in places where it’s safe for someone to stand and watch the video — you don’t want people stopping in the middle of a street to get the best angle to gawk, for instance.

How Much Does a 3D Billboard Cost?

A lot more than a standard billboard costs. You pay for new ideas, and you pay for technology — 3D billboards combine both, so you can expect to pay a premium. Plus, there’s high demand for the format. Prices rose for 3D billboards over the past year, and inventory is frequently sold out. Other factors that impact the cost of your 3D board include:

  • Who produces the video.
  • Which creative studio you work with and whether they have produced video like this before.
  • The specs for the digital out of home
  • The complexity of the anamorphic illusion.

What Markets Have 3D Billboards Available?

You can currently find them in the biggest markets, like New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and Las Vegas, and expect to see an expansion into smaller markets over the next few years. Minneapolis and Orlando, for instance, now have billboards with 3D capabilities.

Other Tips for Making the Best 3D Billboard

The success of a campaign always comes down to the creative. The better your concept, the better it will perform. But finding a good location where you catch a lot of people will make a difference, too. Other things to keep in mind:

  • Communicate with the vendor or agency regularly to ensure you turn in files in the correct format and give enough lead time.
  • Look at examples of 3D boards to get ideas and see what does (and doesn’t) work.
  • Keep in mind this is for a pedestrian, not vehicular, audience.
  • Add a call to action at the end of the video that invites people to post about the experience to social media to help spread the word about your billboard.

Still have questions about 3D billboards? We can walk you through everything. Contact us today to learn more.


1 Replay added “How to Create the Best 3D Billboard

  1. Hello, this is HyunChang Lee from performance by TBWA.
    Performance by TBWA is a marketing agency located in South Korea.

    We are currently highly interested in conducting a 3D digital OOH. However, we do not have any specific guidelines on how to create 3D digital OOH.

    WIll it be possible if you could provide us the guideline on creating a 3D digital OOH?

    Also, we do have a video for the DOOH, will it be possible to change the video into 3D digital content video? If so, could you kindly provide us on how to do so?

    Hope to get a reply soon.

    Thank you.

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