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Trends & Insights | Blog

The rise of CGI in advertising

September 28, 2023


Ads using computer-generated imagery (CGI) have taken social media by storm. We explore the power and allure of this exciting format, and how brands can use it effectively.

Lee Peters

Senior Account Director

Fifty years ago, the average global audience saw about 500 ads per day. Today, that number is 5,000. And with 5.3 trillion display ads shown online every year, children see an average of 20,000 thirty-second commercials each year. Adults see an average of 2 million.

So, how can ads cut through the increasing noise of our modern world? And how can advertising still work?

How brands are using CGI in advertising

Recently, we've seen a series of ads that have taken social media by storm and generated a hurricane of engagement. 

In London, Maybelline released a new Lash Sensational Mascara ad featuring an underground train appearing to fly through the tunnel with flirtatiously batting eyelashes on its driver's cab. This ad exploded across social media, garnering 2+ million likes on Instagram alone, and making plenty of headlines.

L'Oreal responded with an ad featuring a vintage Citroen appearing to drive through Paris while trailing a blazing path of crimson from a giant lipstick positioned on its roof – scoring a whopping 10+ million views on Instagram.

We’ve also seen a giant Barbie take over Dubai’s business district, with a video circulated online showing a larger-than-life Barbie stepping out of its box in front of the world’s tallest building: Dubai’s Burj Khalifa. 

These ads are just a few examples of how advertisers are using increasingly creative and innovative ways to capture our attention. By blurring the lines between reality and fantasy, these ads create a sense of wonder and excitement that is hard for consumers to resist.

But how exactly are brands creating these eye-catching stunts? Well, ICYMI, what you’re seeing isn’t actually real. These mind-blowing ads are instead made using hyper-realistic computer-generated imagery (CGI).

The benefits of CGI

1. Creativity

CGI allows brands to create visually stunning and imaginative advertising that would be impossible or impractical to produce with traditional filming techniques. It can also be used to create more realistic and engaging product demos, such as showing a new smartphone in action or explaining how a new medical device works.

2. Personalisation

Using CGI can aid marketers to tailor ad campaigns to their specific audiences. For example, it can personalise ads in real-time, such as by displaying different pricing information to customers based on their location or purchase history.

3. Enhanced visuals

CGI can enhance the visual appeal of ads in a number of ways. For example, CGI can be used to create more realistic and detailed product renders, add special effects, or correct imperfections in real-world footage. Furthermore, it can create more visually consistent advertising campaigns, regardless of where the ads are displayed. For example, CGI can be used to create a single product render for both print and digital ads, ensuring that the product is always presented in the best possible light.

4. Traditional filming

CGI can be used to create visuals that are impossible or impractical to capture with traditional filming techniques. For example, CGI could be used to show a product on the moon or inside the human body.

CGI can also help reduce the costs and risks associated with traditional filming. For example, CGI could be used to create dangerous or complex scenes without putting actors or crew members at risk.

5. Sustainability

Logistically, one of the main ways that CGI can help to make films more sustainable is by reducing the need for travel. By creating virtual sets and locations, the need to travel to real-world locations and sets is removed – saving on fuel and emissions. 

Another way that CGI can help to make films more sustainable is by reducing the need for special effects. CGI can be used to create realistic explosions, fight scenes, and other special effects without the need for pyrotechnics and stunts. This can improve safety and reduce the environmental impact of production.

Plenty of films have used CGI to make production more environmentally friendly. For example, Avatar used CGI to create the entire planet of Pandora, Mad Max: Fury Road used the technology for action sequences, car chases and explosions, and all of the animals in The Lion King were created with the help of CGI. 

The potential drawbacks of using CGI

1. Cost

CGI can be expensive, especially when producing complex or realistic images. This can present a barrier for smaller businesses and startups wanting to experiment with the tech in their advertising efforts. 

2. Authenticity

Some consumers may feel that CGI advertising is misleading or inauthentic, especially if it is used to create unrealistic images of products or services.

3. Ethics

There are also ethical concerns related to the use of CGI in advertising, such as the potential to misrepresent products or make false claims.

The future of CGI in advertising

The rise of this technology has clearly transformed brand advertising, unleashing creativity through visual aesthetics and personalised messaging. And while there are drawbacks like cost and overuse, the benefits outweigh the risks at this stage.

However, it’s important for brands to strike a balance between CGI and traditional methods to engage audiences both online and offline. In a nutshell: When building it into a marketing strategy, brands should be looking to use the technology in a way that still feels authentic to their values, and respectful of their audience.

We’re looking forward to seeing the many more innovative campaigns that will no doubt emerge as brands to continue to explore this exciting medium.

To learn how our team can help with your social media strategy and content, visit our website or email hello@battenhall.com.