I see a horrifying future of … marketing

One of the advantages of small town living is that I won’t get this crap until at least 20 years after those of you in the big cities. It’s called anamorphic advertising.

No. Just no. I don’t want this anywhere. Fortunately, it’s somewhat limited in that it only works when viewed from a small range of angles, but still, as the article points out, this can get obnoxious and distracting fast.

The trend could make advertising more dynamic and fun, giving us giant digital playspaces anytime we step outside. “When you literally have things popping out of a billboard at you, it feels inviting in all kinds of new ways,” said Greg Coleman, Prime Video’s global head of marketing and franchise.

It could also turn our public commons into obtrusive brand exercises, making advertising literally something we can’t avoid. Anyone who has ever endured a too-popular meme knows it’s a short jump from virality to annoyance.

“This is exciting and it’s attention-getting,” said Arun Lakshmanan, an associate professor of marketing at the University at Buffalo School of Management and an expert in immersive advertising. “It also could really start getting intrusive.”

I don’t know about you, but I was already prepared to hang all the marketing professors. I’m imagining driving down I94 to the twin cities, and now in addition to all the Jesus billboards and baby heartbeat billboards, I get to see Kris Lindahl flapping his arms all over the place. Yuck.


  1. says

    If this were an actual depiction of what the show was like I might pay to see it. Like if the whole show was this live extravagant 3-D light stage performance with crazy interpretive dance numbers where the light kinda bends around the actors’ hands that would be something. But I’m guessing that’s not what they’re advertising. The stills make it look like another bland TV show inspired by the Lord of the Rings movies.

  2. wzrd1 says

    I dunno, that, coupled with their desired personalization of ads like that, could find it entertaining.
    Keying off of my specially crafted profile on my phone, pop-outs of sex toys in a public space would be endlessly entertaining. After all, the prudes would go thermonuclear and never realize that they’ve been had by a specialized profile triggering their triggering content.
    The lawyer would also quite love it.

  3. Doc Bill says

    The first one I saw was a giant cat on a building in Tokyo. It was really cool and definitely looked like a giant cat sitting on the building, swishing its tail, stretching, yawning. Fantastic experience!

  4. geezer septuagenarian says

    To me this appears a far larger distraction to a driver than answering your iPhone.

  5. tacitus says

    To me this appears a far larger distraction to a driver than answering your iPhone.

    No worries, if distraction becomes a problem, you can always get a ride in one of their self-driving vehicle — for free if you’re willing to forego looking out of the window for a full 360 degree anamorphic surround-sound 20 minute set of streaming ads…

  6. hillaryrettig1 says

    For people like me, who get the willies even from horror movie previews, this is extra no good.

  7. mmfwmc says

    I can make this soooo much worse if you would like. Pick a person on the street that matches your target demographic – let’s say someone wearing designer clothes (they probably spend money on designer clothes, so let’s try to sell them some more). Find one using AI. Then track her position on the street. Correct the viewing angle in real time so that the narrow range of viewing angles changes to match the location of that person. Now, they have an immersive 3D experience that is even more annoying. For most of the people in range it’s just a really confusing billboard that’s irritating. For that one person it’s extremely irritating.

    This isn’t scifi – I used to build systems like this for usability testing. Also see this (from way back in 2007) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jd3-eiid-Uw

    At the kind of distances you are from these screens, you don’t need to wear glasses to get a 3D effect.

  8. answersingenitals says

    I’m guessing that this will be as popular and last as long as 3-D TV. Is anyone still making those? The fact that it looks really weird except within a narrow viewing angle will make it rather unappealing.

  9. unclefrogy says

    of all the things we need to live a good life immersive advertising is not one of them. The targets of advertising have no dignity, and are barely considered people with rights and privileges at all merely sources of money “profit” to be manipulated any way that works. the goal is to make lots of money and escape the mundane and live separated by luxury
    The quote from the marketing guy betrays itself. going out side should already be inviting enough, opening my eyes in the morning I am overwhelmed with the beauty and mystery of being alive. It should not be some place I need to escape into luxury from .
    Advertising does not really sell a given product per-say as much as it promotes need and insecurity and the illusion that “something” outside will fulfill that need. ya, no

  10. fentex says

    I watched the first episode – it isn’t very good.

    I don’t read the books and I’m not comparing it with them when I say it’s very second rate – I am comparing it to my experience of Game Of Thrones.

    I watched the first episode of that when it began and I wasn’t particularly interested in the story but I was taken by the quality of the art; the cast, the costumes and set design were all first rate, it was clearly produced by an A-team of artists and it showed. So I kept watching and enjoyed (the first six seasons).

    Wheel of Time is not an effort by an A-team and it does not draw me in, it’s world building is not very convincing.

    As to advertising – my city has what is called the “four avenues”, a square of wide street one mile to a side in which the central city was built having been designed on the other side of the planet (it has offset diagonal streets across it because when the planners came to build their planned grid there was just no way of avoiding the actual paths following the actual use of the land by locals) and the busiest of these is now lined end to end with large screen billboards so you’re never not confronted when driving along with one of them.

    Another reason not to go into town.

  11. gijoel says

    @18 Friends of mine who have read the books dub it as the “Wheely long time”. I gave the series a wide berth after that.

  12. Hairhead, Still Learning at 59 says

    I did try to read the Wheel of Time. Didn’t last long. Terribly derivative. Vacuous and wordy. Best description came from some SF reviewer, who called the books, “Extruded Fantasy Product”.

  13. unclefrogy says

    the wheel of time was kind of what U.K Le guin was going for in The lathe of Heaven but translations led to the resulted name.

  14. lanir says

    Seeing this once is interesting. The cat video shows that. It’s a trick and many tricks are fun the first time you experience them, especially when they have some genuine novelty and artistic value to them.

    Attempts to sell you something you aren’t already looking to buy are not interesting. They’re transparent attempts to bamboozle you into trusting some product claims whether stated or implied when about the only thing you can trust about most ads is that there is a product or brand with that name.

    So I think there’s a set number of minutes or individual examples of this that will be new and interesting for everyone. And after that it’s just another cheap trick like the kind of radio ad with two people having a fake conversation that inexplicably centers around some product.

    What’s your number? I think mine is probably about 3 minutes of seeing one. Or maybe 3 or 4 individual examples of it. Whichever comes first. Past that I already don’t care anymore.

  15. John Morales says

    The worse the product, the more important the marketing.
    Obviously, this product needs extreme marketing.

    As an inveterate SF/fantasy reader, I came across that work when it was newish; a lot like Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, it’s just a turgid mess. And, for me, boring.
    Plenty like it, of course… like Raymond Feists’ Riftwar crud.

    But I will recommend one of George Martin’s books (collection, actually): Tuf Voyaging.
    Before he got boring.

    (Much more so than Terry Pratchett, before he became boring; from him, I recommend The Dark Side of the Sun (1976) and Strata (1981), back when he was interesting; at least he remained mostly readable)

  16. John Morales says

    kelvinwoelk, I just did. Other than not being amusing, I’m not sure what you think he was on to.

    (Perhaps your memory of it supersedes the reality)

  17. maireaine46 says

    As I remember, the Japanese cat was not selling anything, It was put up to cheer people up during the pandemic. I liked it; She looked like one of our cats. But the idea inflicting this kind of technology on unsuspecting folks to sell stuff is awful.

  18. fergl says

    Ive not read Terry Pratchett but want to try. John Morales can you advise on the birkng books please?

  19. Kagehi says

    @11 mmfwmc

    Thankfully we don’t “have” a tech that can fix the “viewing angle”. I am guessing that this is volumetric, and it requires a very specific “box” with precise angles, to generate the illusion of 3D, sort of like those old time picture books, which had dozens of slices of an image, and a rippled lens, which made it so your eyes only saw specific slices. Same concept. To “adjust viewing angle” you would have to literally reorient the entire display mechanism (or whole wall, basically).

    Alternatively, there is a much more limited, black and white, version, which uses stupid amounts of power, and lasers, to create literal molecular disruptions at fixed points – a true “in air” hologram, but it also generates massive heat (since its literally causing the air itself to generate the burst of light needed. Or, there is the “fake” version, which is a sort of huge light display, which spins, and the 3D comes from the lights being turned on/off as it spins, in the correct orientation. Not sure how much of a limit in viewing angle this has, but its mechanically complex, likely doesn’t lend itself to building size displays, etc.

    So, yeah.. its “unlikely” they have come up with anything that actually does this. But, if its the volumetric one.. oh man I so want a cheap version, which normal people can afford, that is large enough to do a table top display, for gaming…. Imagine trying it to a backscreen with D&D terrain, then dropping the “characters/monsters/key items” in as volumetric objects….

  20. birgerjohansson says

    Since Blade Runner inspired “cyberpunk” SF we have been getting prepared for this moment the last four decades.
    Next up: automated blimps with giant billboards spelling “OFFWORLD”.

  21. kaleberg says

    This isn’t horribly new. When I was a kid, Time Square in New York had a Camels cigarette billboard with guy with a moving arm blowing smoking and smoke rings and a Coppertone sun lotion billboard with a little dog pulling down a little girl’s bathing suit. Some years later there was a giant boot ready to stomp anyone trying to get to will call for Sondheim’s Into the Woods. Granted, people have been coming to see the outlandish advertisements around Times Square since the late 19th century. They still do. A giant cat, a rugby ball or a show’s character reaching out over the street would be right in place. At least it’s not smoking or kiddie porn.

  22. mmfwmc says

    @31 Kagehi,

    You can do it – I’ve built one and deployed it (not for evil, but still). First, you only need a 2d image – stereoscopic images aren’t necessary for something like this (beyond about 30m stereopsis is not a great cue). Second, you render the images in real-time. Change the viewing angle of the render camera to match the location of the viewer and use an asymmetric frustum. You lose some render quality from the kind of stuff you’d get out of a render farm, but you gain a lot of immersion.

  23. flange says

    If this is advertising, it will be judged by how well, or if it sells something. I suspect it would not be cost effective. But It’s a great rush for someone’s ego.
    I think I was treated for an asymmetric frustum—or maybe it was a prolapsed frustum. Painful, but not terminal.

  24. John Morales says


    If this is advertising, it will be judged by how well, or if it sells something.

    Sure. Ostensibly, it’s advertising yet another adaptation of a particular fantasy series.

    But I can’t help thinking it’s primarily advertising the agency doing the advertising, and secondarily the advertising gimmick/technology being employed in so doing.

    I think I was treated for an asymmetric frustum—or maybe it was a prolapsed frustum. Painful, but not terminal.

    I know all the words, but… huh?

  25. flange says

    @36 John Morales

    “…I think I was treated for an asymmetric frustum—or maybe it was a prolapsed frustum. Painful, but not terminal.”

    Sorry, John. It’s not funny if it has to be explained. My idea of word humor.