Digital Visual Effects in Advertisement and Marketing

effectsHaving grown up in the digital age, I’m no stranger to digital visual effects and CGI. In more recent years, the film industry has embraced new technologies, and digital visual effects are no longer limited to sci-fi thrillers and other specialized genres. In Stephen Prince’s book Digital Visual Effects in Cinema: The Seduction of Reality, Prince examines the boom in popularity of these kinds of effects in the industries of film and television. Through reading this book, as well as viewing contemporary films and TV shows,  it seems there is no end in sight for what CGI can make possible, and I can’t really recall many films and/or television shows I’ve seen recently that didn’t employ these kinds of effects. They have become completely commonplace in today’s media landscape.

One thing I have noticed more often nowadays is the use of advanced digital visual effects in advertising campaigns. I’m not talking about the use of graphics for logos, like those used heavily on programs like Sports Center or the like. Rather, I’m talking about the integration of CGI within certain advertising campaigns that attempt to replicate reality, as closely as humanly possible, like this Dior advertisement which features a digital replicas of some of Hollywood’s most renowned leading ladies, including Grace Kelly, Marlene Dietrich, Marilyn Monroe, and others.

When I first watched this ad, I had to look twice to determine whether it had in fact used digital visual effects, or if these women were actresses that just happened to bear an uncanny resemblance to the late starlets. When I realized the ad had used CGI, I was totally surprised; sure, I’d seen digital visual effects in advertising before, but never to this degree. It appears that we have become so accustomed to these kinds of effects that the marketing industry feels they too must focus heavily on including them in order to grab the attention of viewers. I immediately assumed that using digital effects in advertising was a new phenomenon.

However, on page thirteen of Prince’s book, he writes,

“Thus it is in the early 1980s that computer graphics and feature filmmaking begin to intersect in major and substantial ways, although Hollywood was slow to adopt digital imagery in this period. By contrast, computer-generated imagery was more plentiful on broadcast television, where it appeared in advertising and as corporate logos. Corporate advertising budgets could afford the cost-per-minute expenditures that made short CGI effects feasible; Hollywood as yet could not.Moreover, film was more unforgiving of digital artifacts than the low-resolution medium of television. Digitally animated artwork graced the opening of Entertainment Tonight in 1983 and ABC’s Winter Olympics coverage the following year, and flying logos appeared on the nightly network newscasts and broadcasts of National Football League games.”

So it appears that CGI and other digital visual effects actually began in the advertising world, rather than in film. Nowadays, of course, we’ve seen a shift in this regard; I seem to be readily away of computer generated effects in film, and less so in television and advertising. The Dior ad above is an example of how extreme uses of CGI are becoming more and more common in unexpected areas, and I’m interested to see how much further these effects will go in the years to come.

To be honest, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find these hyper realistic uses of CGI to be kind of creepy in a lot of ways. Why use digital visual effects where one could use a real, living and breathing human being? I understand the draw of CGI, especially given how popular it is within the business of entertainment, but it begins to seem unnecessary after a certain point. I’m really looking forward to discussing this book in class on Thursday and gaging other’s opinions on this topic. Below, I’ve included a more recent ad for Dove chocolate, which uses a CGI version of Audrey Hepburn. What do you think of this brand’s use of digital visual effects?

Image found through Creative Commons.

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