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CGI's Impact on Out-of-Home Advertising

With the continuous advancement of technology, CGI activations are taking the world of out-of-home by storm. The ability to seamlessly blend CGI elements into real-world settings has become more accessible and affordable, enabling brands to utilise these artificial yet hyper-realistic ads to create immersive experiences that overcome the constraints of physical installations, garnering a significant amount of engagement and millions of views online.

However, this raises important questions about the authenticity of outdoor brand experiences. A recent Alfresco Life consumer study found that the public has a strong preference for real-world ads, with 44% of respondents being less impressed when discovering that a ‘Faux Out of Home’ (FOOH) ad was CGI, while 46% felt more positively towards ads that they knew were real (particularly among 18-34-year-olds, where the figure rose to almost 60%).

Genuine outdoor activations are grounded in the physical world (involving real people, real events, and real emotions) and provide an element of tangibility and authenticity that CGI activations find hard to emulate. With this in mind, we spoke with experts from across the agency to get their take on the rise of larger-than-life CGI activations, how this impacts the out-of-home market, and how advertisers can integrate this effectively into their marketing mix.

‘CGI OOH activations give brands the opportunity to go big at launches, with truly creative concepts that can cut through the noise. While an exciting market that will continue to grow, it will be important to make these hyper-realistic concepts more tangible in real life to consumers, or we risk the technology becoming a fad that does not connect with audiences.’ – Adaugo Ohaka, Media Planner at the7stars

Whilst FOOH breaks creative barriers and drives talkability (with an AdAge study revealing a 20% higher recall rate for FOOH campaigns compared to traditional OOH), making the activation tangible and implementing a dose of reality is key for advertisers seeking to take advantage of this medium. Research by Edelman’s Trust Barometer repeatedly reveals that consumers’ trust in businesses increases when the business is perceived to be authentic and transparent, making it all the more important for brands to consider how to avoid the consumer feeling cheated when utilising FOOH.

‘These activations open doors for lesser-known brands who crave creativity, paving a way for them to stand out and cause disruption in an ever-growing and expensive marketplace. However, it’s important not to lose sight of striking the balance between Public and Private media. Brands which are only seen to be playing in the Private space risk losing the trust of consumers. Authenticity is increasingly important for brands seeking to grow and diversify, particularly amongst younger audiences, and we would therefore urge clients to ensure they are present in the physical space, using CGI as a way to amplify existing campaign concepts.’ – Katie Scott, Client Lead at the7stars

‘CGI OOH allows brands the creativity that cannot be achieved with the constraints of the real world, and many brands have jumped on this bandwagon. However, this surge has prompted consumers to become increasingly cautious of brands activating purely virtually and can be seen as inauthentic. By ensuring that brands' CGI activations have tangible real-world activations to complement them will bring those big ideas to life, for all.’ – Jasmine Allen, Media Planner at the7stars

Elsewhere, advertisers are also utilising 3D DOOH experiences to enable the public to take control of on-screen content through their mobile phones, whilst also pushing the boundaries of OOH creativity. Placing the control in the consumers' hands allows them to build strong emotional connections with the brand whilst also driving conversation.

As we continue to see the growth of FOOH, brands need to ensure that the activations still feel authentic to the consumer. This enables brands to take advantage of the limitless opportunities that CGI activations bring and drive conversation, truly connecting with their audience.