SBJ/20100628/SBJ In-Depth

For advertising, most waiting to see on 3-D

When ESPN launched its 3-D network June 11, it followed a short promo announcing the new network with four advertisements, all shot in 3-D.

The first was a minute-long spot from Sony marketing its 3-D television sets. Next came an ad from Gillette, followed by one for “Toy Story 3,” then a “This is SportsCenter” spot.

And that was it. Those are the only 3-D spots that have aired on the network, and no new ones are planned.

If 3-D television still is in its infancy, 3-D advertising is even younger.

This “SportsCenter” ad is one of four
3-D spots to air on ESPN’s new
network so far.

Two of the three initial advertisers are companies that are trying to develop their own 3-D businesses. Movie studios marketing 3-D movies, like Disney’s “Toy Story 3,” are a natural fit. So, too, are consumer electronics companies, like Sony, trying to sell 3-D equipment.

In ESPN 3D’s first week in existence, Gillette was the only company to produce a 3-D spot that is not actually in the 3-D business. It produced a 3-D ad to help market its Fusion ProGlide razor brand.

“Gillette was intrigued when we talked with them about what we were doing with 3-D,” said Ed Erhardt, ESPN’s president of customer marketing and sales. “They felt it was something they could utilize to help launch their Fusion ProGlide. They liked the idea that it was something that would enhance the brand.”

But Gillette is one of the few. Some 3-D telecasts are being produced without any 3-D ads at all. YES Network’s upcoming 3-D game is not expected to have any ads produced in 3-D. And Fox says none of its All-Star Game advertisers have expressed interest in delivering 3-D ads.

To some executives, it feels like the early days of HDTV, when most of the ads during HD telecasts were shot in standard definition.

For networks looking to produce 3-D telecasts, the lack of added ad sales revenue makes it more important to partner with distributors to help defray the production costs.

“You’d hate to go strictly with an ad sales bet,” said YES Network Chief Operating Officer Ray Hopkins. “There will be incremental ad revenue.”

Right now, it’s too early to tell what — if any — premium networks can place on 3-D ads. 3-D ads are much more expensive to produce. And both networks and advertisers will be studying research from how many viewers are watching the early 3-D games and who they are.

“It’s too early to tell. Much too early,” Erhardt said. “Certain categories, like movies, consumer electronics and autos, will certainly feel that 3-D enhances their product. I’m not sure quick-service restaurants have to have a 3-D commercial, unless there’s something going on in their commercial that helps them sell a product that they couldn’t do in HD.”

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