The rise of CGI-powered outdoor activations: a real opportunity or just a mirage?.

Social Media
CGI Outdoor Activations
5 mins read

In the world of advertising and marketing today, innovation knows no bounds. Brands are constantly seeking new and creative ways to capture the attention of audiences, often turning to outdoor activations as a means of achieving that goal. However, in the last couple of years, a curious trend has emerged: the rise of branded outdoor activations that aren’t outdoor at all. In fact, they’re made entirely with CGI.

These digital spectacles create significant amounts of attention and engagement online, especially on social media, generating millions and millions of views. In this blog, we’ll review some recent examples, discuss what makes them so successful and debate whether this use of CGI negates the importance of genuine outdoor experiential activity.

The CGI phenomenon: a viral spectacle in the making

The use of CGI in marketing is not a new concept. For years, brands have been integrating computer-generated imagery into their advertising and marketing campaigns, bringing fantastical worlds and impossible scenarios to life. However, the recent surge in the use of CGI for outdoor activations is a notable development and brings with it a multitude of benefits.

One of the driving factors behind this trend is the advancement of technology. The capability to seamlessly blend CGI elements into real-world settings has become more accessible and affordable. As a result, brands are increasingly turning to this technique to create eye-catching outdoor stunts that grab people’s attention and are immediately shareable.

CGI activations enable brands to overcome logistical challenges and budget constraints associated with physical installations. This flexibility results in timely and cost-effective campaigns. Additionally, the viral potential of these CGI activations is immense, as they spark curiosity and conversations online.

As we’ll see below, audiences are more likely to share these unique, attention-grabbing experiences, amplifying brand visibility and engagement across social media. In essence, CGI-driven branded outdoor activations are a powerful tool for brands to boost awareness and reach, forge stronger online connections and foster brand loyalty.

Maybelline leading the way when it comes to CGI activations

Beauty brand Maybelline New York has really been leading the way when it comes to the use of CGI-powered outdoor activations. Earlier this year, the brand launched a short video on social to promote its Falsies Surreal mascara, which rapidly became a viral sensation. In the video, a pink train resembling the mascara’s packaging could be seen gliding down a bustling New York City street. This video garnered a remarkable 12.7 million views on TikTok, with the count continuing to rise.

The following day, another video showcasing the brand’s Sky High mascara captured widespread attention online. It showed a London tube train seemingly donning false eyelashes, with a colossal mascara brush extending from a billboard coating the lashes as the train arrived at the station. Subsequently, a double-decker bus appeared to be adorned with lashes too, receiving a thorough combing from a gigantic brush attached to a building’s billboard. These videos playfully accentuated the flexibility of Maybelline’s Flex Tower mascara wand applicator, highlighting its ability to effortlessly cover each lash from root to tip.

These activations from Maybelline New York proved so popular they even had people hunting them down, genuinely believing they were real.

The impact of CGI on genuine branded outdoor activations

While the use of CGI in outdoor activations undoubtedly generates attention and engagement on social, it raises critical questions about the authenticity of brand experiences. Genuine outdoor activations involve real people, real events and real emotions. They are grounded in the physical world, providing an element of tangibility and authenticity that CGI-powered stunts simply cannot emulate.

Consumer trust: Trust is a cornerstone of brand-consumer relationships. When brands resort to CGI to create outdoor spectacles, there is a risk of eroding consumer trust. Audiences may feel deceived once they discover that what they witnessed was a digital fabrication, potentially leading to scepticism about the brand’s credibility.

Emotional connection: Authentic outdoor activations evoke genuine emotions in those who experience them first-hand or through media coverage. These emotions are tied to the realness of the event – the laughter, tears and astonishment of real people. CGI-powered stunts may generate awe, but they lack the emotional depth and connection that come from genuine experiences.

Sustainability concerns: Real outdoor activations that drive footfall to a particular location have the potential to leave a lasting positive impact on communities and the environment. They can promote local tourism, support social causes and contribute to sustainability efforts. In contrast, CGI-powered stunts do not offer the same potential benefits to the real world.

Finding balance: the importance of authenticity in the age of CGI

The rising popularity of branded outdoor activations using CGI has ignited a spirited debate within the advertising and marketing industry. On the one hand, proponents argue that these digital spectacles are a reflection of innovation and creativity. They point to the ability of CGI to create visually stunning and memorable moments that captivate audiences in ways previously unattainable.

On the other hand, critics contend that CGI-powered stunts undermine the essence of authentic brand experiences. They argue that brands should focus on connecting with consumers through real-world interactions, tangible events and genuine emotions. They worry that the proliferation of digital illusions could lead to a homogenised marketing landscape where everything becomes a spectacle, making it increasingly challenging for consumers to distinguish between what’s real and what isn’t.

In a world where technology continually blurs the line between reality and illusion, brands must navigate the terrain of CGI-powered outdoor activations with caution and not lose sight of the importance of authenticity in their marketing efforts. While these digital spectacles undoubtedly capture attention and imagination, they rightly raise concerns about trust and emotional connection. Striking a balance between CGI-driven creativity and genuine engagement is the key to navigating this evolving landscape and ensuring that brands continue to resonate with consumers in meaningful ways. After all, in an age of digital marvels, authenticity remains a precious commodity.

If you’re looking for an agency to create a CGI-driven outdoor stunt that generates online buzz or an experiential activation that wows people in the real world, we can do both. Contact us today and we’ll get the creative ideas flowing.

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