Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Web (and Advertising) in 3-D

Is it me or did everything just kick into 3-D?

In a number of magazines this past week I read about the upcoming deluge of digital 3-D movies and the movie industry’s overall push towards embracing the 3-dimensional world as a means of investment in their future. It seems that everything in the coming weeks will be 3-D. Even a few of this year’s Superbowl spots were in 3-D, though I don’t know a single person who had the glasses to watch them.

That got me to thinking while we were at OMMA Global about what the next stage of the web will be and it leads me to the idea that Web 3.0 might as well be called Web 3-D.
Just about everyone agrees that the next stage of the web is a transition towards a customizable, distributed web that no longer relies on mass audience destinations as much as it will rely on technology to tailor the remote experience to the individual user, but is it possible that the next stage of the web will also transition from a 2-dimensional experience of flat web pages to a 3-dimensional experience more akin to virtual worlds?

The virtual worlds buzz has died down a bit, but most technologists agree that the future of the web involves VR (virtual reality) in some manner, and VR implies a 3-dimensional experience. If you follow this path of thought, then you can also surmise that the format for display advertising will evolve to a more 3-dimensional experience as well. Whether that experience would be analogous to digital billboards with motion, even video, embedded in the virtual landscape or just entry and exit points being converted to digital advertising “portals”, either one can be considered very interesting and very alluring to advertisers. The issue with the current display formats is that they’re flat and can be overlooked, as well as the fact that too many people rely on click-through as a metric for success. In a 3-dimensional world the ads can take on a new life and even morph into truer product placement. I don’t mean that your web experience will be like walking through a virtual world. I simply mean that the browser may be lifted in front of you and pages may reside behind pages in a more tangible, 3-dimensional browsing experience rather than the current flat-land way they look and feel.

This topic gets me excited because of the possibilities that arise. How many times have you wished you could create a 3-D chart when presenting to the client that integrated three axes into the discussion? Imagine if the way you surfed the web could be more similar to the “switch between windows” icon in Windows Vista or the most recent way the Apple Safari browser updates your “most recent pages viewed” format? Expanding the experience of web surfing outside of the current browser formats will represent a massive shift in the way we experience the web and interconnectedness of the Internet would be even more easily understood. It’s rather inevitable that something like this will happen. The browser space has been stagnant for years; regardless of what Firefox or Chrome bring to the table. They all represent a 2-D web experience and that is simply not the way I see the future.

Much of the talk at OMMA was about display and how we might see improvements in the coming years, but most of our discussion focused on measurement and interaction. Maybe the solution lies in revisiting the actual web experience itself? Maybe we need to revise our entire experience with digital media and bring the “pinch and zoom” functionality of the iPhone to the general PC? I know someone smarter than me is working on this right now and I wish they’d hurry up and show it off!

Do you think we’re headed in this direction? Comment on the message board and let us know!

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