The craze for 3D television marks an opportunity for advertisers to engage with consumers in new ways.
A fresh view on selling
The craze for 3D television marks an opportunity for advertisers to engage with consumers in new ways, Middle East communications executives say.
Electronics retailers and makers are promoting 3D TV sets, with analysts expecting Middle East consumers to have greater than average interest in it.
According to Nielsen's "How People Watch" report published in August, consumers in the Middle East, Africa and Pakistan region are more than twice as likely to own or be interested in buying a 3D set compared with those in Europe and North America.
The new medium is also a fresh opportunity for advertisers, says Dr Lance de Masi, the president of the UAE chapter of the International Advertising Association (IAA), and the president of the American University in Dubai.
"Neither 3D nor communication created specifically for it is necessarily a gimmick," Dr de Masi says. "It is clear that engagement now places at the top of advertisers' lists of priorities; hence, the interest in 3D and the opportunities it offers for increased impact."
This year both Etisalat and du launched 3D TV services over their home networks. In other markets, such services are attracting the attention of advertisers.
In the UK, the cable TV companies BSkyB and Virgin Media have both recently launched 3D channels. BSkyB has signed up Panasonic as the first sponsor of its new Sky 3D channel, which features a range of films such as Ice Age, plus sporting events such as the Ryder Cup.
In the Middle East, the clothing retailer Splash, which ran a 3D magazine campaign this year, says it will consider a 3D TV campaign if the medium proves successful.
"In years to come, when this technology is widely used, I'd look at it," says Raza Beig, the chief executive of Splash.
In a recent campaign Splash bundled 1 million pairs of 3D glasses with locally distributed magazines, advertisements in the magazines, and in some cases sponsored features that contained images that could be viewed in 3D through the glasses.
"We wanted to be the first in the region - nobody else had done a 3D print campaign," says Mr Beig. "3D is becoming part of our lives. And fashion is always associated with technology."
He says the company has had a "very good" response to the campaign, which justifies the extra cost because it helped the ads stand out in a crowded market. The 3D campaign also included shopfront displays and printed T-shirts.
"The logistics of doing 3D is tough and it's quite expensive," Mr Beig says. "I'd presume [the print campaign] would cost 30 to 40 per cent more … I think it's worth it because there's a lot of clutter right now."
But Mr Beig says the company was unlikely to do another 3D campaign in print. "I don't think we want to do this over and over again, because it would lose its USP [unique selling point]. I think it's once - it's a novelty thing."
Dr de Masi says advertisers must be "cautious" over the additional expense of 3D advertising. "It should only be of interest to an advertiser if the target audience for a given brand is exposed in sufficient quantity so as to justify incorporation into a media plan," he says. "One must be cautious so as not to pay an excessive premium or suffer opportunity loss by not investing in other media just to be in 3D."
Mazen Hayek, the group director of PR and commercial at MBC Group, says the broadcaster does not yet have plans to launch 3D channels.
"The big question to advertisers would be if they are prepared to pay the extra dollar," Mr Hayek says.
He adds 3D TV has cost implications for broadcasters and consumers, and availability in 3D is an issue. "It takes a lot of content to be produced to justify the high cost of TV sets."