The problem of huge levels of advertising wastage – in the form of unused assets – can be easily solved, says Collective World’s Chris Shadrick.

As an industry, we should be ashamed of the stat from the recent report from CreativeX that says more than half of new content produced annually by brands is never published – translating to as much as $100bn spent on unused assets. 

The wastage doesn't just apply to the assets themselves, of course. The sheer amount of man-hours wasted, the extra levels of stress for everyone involved and the colossal carbon footprint all this unused work creates is deeply worrying. For the sake of the mental health of our workforce and the planet's future, something urgently needs to change.

For me, it was this quote that got to the real nub of the issue: “Apart from the obvious financial impact, it’s evident that advertisers lack visibility into an asset’s creative lifecycle.” 

The reason this stat is so shameful is that the fix to this massive problem is so simple.  

Create once, use many

What a lot of advertisers actually lack is real-time design capabilities that allow an asset’s creative lifecycle to last forever in multiple forms that can be created for a fraction of the cost and in a fraction of the time of traditional assets. This technology can be the saviour of this wastage. 

We’re shifting to a new reality where production files are going to become USD (Universal Scene Description) as standard, knocking down walled gardens and allowing for more open collaboration. USD is a high-performance extensible software platform for collaboratively constructing animated 3D scenes – this is going to become the new standard in 3D production and will democratise the production process. This is a huge game-changer – think of it like being able to charge an iPhone with any USB-C cable. Remote and seamless collaboration across every production tool.

Omniverse – a word you’re going to hear an awful lot this year – takes these efficiencies to another level completely and is the desperately needed answer to resolve the multitude of issues advertising creates for itself. Created by NVIDIA, Omniverse allows you to create a single, universal truth. At a time when personalisation is becoming a more and more vital component of ads, we now have the ability to provide unparalleled flexibility, scalability, interoperability and quality. 

By creating a photo-real digital twin of your asset, you can re-use it an infinite number of times across all your e-commerce and brand marketing without ever losing consistency. Create once, use many. The wastage pipeline is suddenly corked.

Then add real-time 3D

You marry Omniverse with real-time 3D and suddenly you have a system that allows for genuine collaboration between agencies and brands. It’s the ultimate in streamlining and you can see the results there and then. It’s not science fiction, it’s not a ‘soon’ – Disney, Siemens and Amazon are all using these technologies now. And yet, the majority of brands and agencies persist with archaic ways of working, which they know are expensive and time-consuming but seem to hold some strange drug-like allure for them.

At Collective, we’ve been utilising real-time 3D such as Unreal Engine for more than ten years. Leagues ahead of what many think of as novelty game engines, the tech is now so advanced that the simulations of assets are indistinguishable from the real thing. For example, we recently worked with a company and found that when replicating a product we could perfectly match the viscosity of a liquid and the particular sheen given off by a reflective surface. 

This isn’t a gimmick, it’s how we all need to get used to working. When Saatchi & Saatchi came to us with a project they simply couldn’t fix with CGI due to the time constraints and budget, we used real-time 3D to create five unique immersive worlds in just six weeks. Under budget, under timeframe and under carbon. 

The benefits of using real-time 3D as opposed to orchestrating a traditional shoot speak for themselves:

  • Cost savings of up to 80% compared to traditional workflows
  • Cost savings of 40% on TV Spots compared to traditional methods
  • Up to a 50% reduction in timelines compared to traditional workflows
  • A green solution that is 99% more sustainable (CO2 output) than a location shoot
  • Large productions previously costing £100m can now cost £25m

Using technology to increase your efficiency isn’t the Devil’s work. The wastage reported is the symptom; the illness is the poor work, poor strategy and poor relationships. It’s an eternal Catch-22 that can only be broken when creatives are working at their peak. By harnessing these new tools, we can put the client back at the heart of everything we do and become resolutely efficient in how we work.