While online platforms have traditionally merely catalogued inventory and product descriptions, today’s technology enables consumers to get up close and engage with products—a useful feature in a time when physical touch has become discouraged.
This fast-changing development has challenged brands to think in terms of new digital formats and channels, identifying untapped opportunities to strike a connection with consumers. One exciting example of this is Google’s Swirl ad format, which transforms banner ads into spaces to engage directly with 3D product models.
Google recently released a case study detailing a Swirl campaign co-developed by MediaMonks for French fragrance brand Guerlain. The ads invite users to explore the brand’s perfume, turning a digital bottle to reveal floral ingredients that visually evoke its scent in an almost synesthetic fashion. While achieving the “wow” factor of an appealing interactive experience, the ad drove results, too: Google notes a three-time increase in engagement compared to other rich media formats, a 34% increase in exposure time and a 17-point increase in customer purchase intent. The ad’s success showcases how technical innovation and creative storytelling come together to drive unique engagement opportunities.
Content That Goes Beyond the Bounds of Possibility
Swirl ads function in two ways: first, there’s the initial banner view, whose animation is triggered by the user’s scrolling down a page. Within this mode, users can rotate the product and zoom in to explore its details more closely. If they like what they see, there’s a prompt to open the experience in a full-screen view, enabling greater detail and additional features.
Swirl ads let users dive deep into product features in an engaging way.
Tommy Lacoste, who is a Senior Project Manager at MediaMonks and worked on Guerlain and other Swirl campaigns, noted that “The most compelling thing about the format is having a beautiful, 3D object with real time reflection and shadows,” mentioning the creative goal of achieving visual fidelity. Another unique aspect of the format compared to other interactive banners, he says, is that it doesn’t immediately redirect you somewhere else. Exploration and engagement are critical. “With the Swirl format, we can really dress up and contextualize the object,” says Lacoste.
Showcasing the Guerlain perfume’s ingredients digitally as a beautiful bouquet within the bottle is just one example of how brands can use 3D content to creatively build new contexts for learning about or enjoying a brand. This applies to other content like AR filters as well; for example, MediaMonks worked with Unilever to develop a Facebook Messenger-connected AR game that turns the daily habit of brushing one’s teeth into playtime, helping establish healthy habits by tapping into children’s imagination.
Striking Personalized Emotional Resonance
As shoppers increasingly turn to digital channels to research, discover and make purchases online, 3D content also offers an immersive opportunity to strike a personalized connection. While this need has ramped up after the rise of COVID-19’s spread, Swirl ads were already live well before then, demonstrating how the appetite for such content has already existed. The format serves as an effective vehicle for building emotional resonance, which is increasingly critical to differentiating the brand as consumers turn their attention toward experiences.
In the Forrester report “Navigate Four Waypoints To Build Brand Resonance,” Forrester VP and Principal Analyst Dipanjan Chatterjee notes the importance of driving emotional connections between a brand and its audience. “Brands do not just satisfy our material needs; they also speak to our subconscious,” writes Chatterjee. “The best ones connect to us emotionally in ways that secure them an unassailable position. It is much easier for competitors and entrants to innovate and replicate features and functionality than it is to displace an emotionally rooted bond.”
The challenge is to deliver on the original intent of digital.
In search of the emotional resonance in content, MediaMonks Founder Wesley ter Haar laments that over the years, many brands and advertisers have privileged linear storytelling formats for too long, avoiding a key benefit of digital formats: interactivity. “The challenge is to deliver on the original intent of digital,” says MediaMonks founder Wesley ter Haar. “Interactive, tactile and personalized moments of magic that create conversation, conversion and commercial opportunities.”
Brands that seek new yet meaningful ways to connect with consumers digitally require a more innovative approach to the standard toolkits they’ve been working with. By rethinking how consumers can interact with physical products digitally, Swirl ads and other 3D content like AR filters encourage brands to adopt a channel-specific mindset that identifies opportunities to meet consumers in unique, but increasingly relevant, ways.
Brands Are Best Served with a 3D Strategy in Place
3D content replicates the physical experience of engaging with a product, but has the opportunity to go even further because it’s unbounded by physical constraint—aside from file sizes and loading times, anyway. But conceptually, 3D creative content offers brands a way to immerse users within the brand story at a low barrier of entry. In this respect, Lacoste recommends brands use 3D content purposefully: “In many instances, a video suffices. 3D content must be used with purpose, and made interactive for the full effect.”
The "Little Brush Big Brush" AR game for Unilever demonstrates how 3D content can offer new contexts for consumers to engage digitally.
Also look for opportunities to to maximize value and efficiency. “Let’s say I’ve made a 3D model of a perfume bottle to use in a banner,” says Lacoste. “We can reuse that in an AR lens or in a marketing video.” While most brands still consider 3D content as a “nice-to-have” rather than a “must-have,” it’s worth understanding the versatility of the assets.
In fact, in a webinar hosted by the In-House Agency Forum, ter Haar advised brands to “Try to make the 3D element part of your production workflow. One of the big challenges we see is that brands don’t have the assets.” By reusing pre-existing CAD designs, for example, much of the development work is already taken care of.
Whether watching linear video advertising in the form of product unboxings or engaging in new formats, like trying on makeup using AR filters, consumers are eager to replicate tactile, tangible shopping experiences in virtual environments. As brands face a reckoning moment to support this ever-increasing desire, they must do so strategically and efficiently. Simple 3D experiences like those delivered in Swirl ads offer an accessible way for brands to upgrade their storytelling and increase engagement that converts.
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