Sight Unseen

In a recent video, Zero Punctuation’s Yahtzee Croshaw described Nintendo’s 3DS — first introduced at E3 — as “a concept that is literally impossible to demonstrate in picture or in video, which rather shoots the advertising potential in the foot.”

A snicker-worthy comment, but one that touches upon an interesting problem that’s been increasing in relevancy over the last decade.

The earliest I remember it was on some of my favorite VHS tapes: ads “showing” the impressive sights and sounds available on those fancy new DVD things.

More recently it’s television commercials “showing” us the superior color and clarity of High Definition Television — as viewed on our inferior standard definition TV’s.

And now, it’s Nintendo trying to “show” us their new 3D technology, and Apple trying to “show” us their impressive new Retina Display. But how do you advertise a feature that’s beyond the spectrum of what your advertising medium can do?

The Nintendo 3DS is reportedly quite a thing to behold, but unless you’re actually beholding it in person, you have no way of witnessing the portable’s magical no-glasses 3D effect. Nintendo’s solution? Hundreds of women with 3DS’s tethered to their persons, to give the audience at their E3 keynote an opportunity to see the devices up close.

Likewise, Steve Jobs remarked during Apple’s unveiling of the iPhone 4 that they had to install a special digital projector just to give the WWDC keynote audience a better idea of the clarity and depth of the phone’s “Retina Display” resolution.

It’ll be interesting to see how Nintendo chooses to approach marketing the 3DS when it’s closer to launch, and I’m very curious to see if Apple ever plans on making a bigger deal of the Retina Display in their ads (thus far, only one iPhone 4 ad has aired, focused entirely on their FaceTime video calling feature).

In the meantime, enjoy the short spec ad I threw together for the iPhone, in a posthumous collaboration with John Hughes.

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