In December, when Hyundai wanted to make a big splash during an unveiling of its Veloster coupe near Los Angeles, the company had two options: Buy a 30-second commercial or rent the side of a building.
The building won.
It was Hyundai's first use in North America of a technology called 3-D projection mapping. Projection mapping turns a building facade into a canvas on which motion graphics can be shown. To viewers on the street, it appears as if the building is moving.
Chevrolet and Lexus also are using 3-D projection mapping in their North American marketing for the first time.
What's the appeal? Hyundai says the L.A. event was better than a TV commercial because it helped build awareness for the Veloster among Gen Y buyers -- generally those born between the early 1980s and early 1990s and a group typically "skeptical of marketers and ads in general," says Monique Kumpis, senior manager of advertising for Hyundai Motor America.
Three-D projection mapping has been used for years in Europe and Asia -- but it is new to automakers in North America looking for fresh ways to grab the attention of social media users and Gen Y buyers who increasingly use their digital video recorders to fast-forward through TV commercials.
The idea is that creative projections can generate a buzz on the street, which leads to viral marketing, or consumers sharing the images with friends. Projection mapping appeals to automakers looking to make their brands stand out, says Rick Mathieson, a brand consultant and author of The On-Demand Brand: 10 Rules for Digital Marketing Success in an Anytime, Everywhere World.
It's "able to stop consumers in their tracks with spectacle unmatched in any other medium today," Mathieson says. "It's a serious buzz builder -- both in real time and for the attention it receives after the fact in online videos and commentary."
Teri Hill, media manager for Lexus, says it is "an effective way of reaching people with a younger mind-set."
Automakers spent less than $100 million on outdoor advertising last year, according to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America. While the portion of outdoor advertising spent on 3-D projection mapping is too small to quantify, it is part of a fast-growing digital segment that is expected to increase to 30 percent of the out-of-home market this year, from 20 percent in 2011, according to MAGNAGLOBAL's advertising forecast report.