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May 2013

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Advertising in the Third Dimension

Staffing for The Next Revolution in Advertising & Marketing

by Glen Emerson Morris
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For the third time in just 30 years, a fundamentally new way of creating and marketing products has come along. In this third phase, or third dimension, of the digital revolution, the digital space is extending into the real 3D world, through 3D printing and other related technology. Like desktop publishing and the Internet, 3D printing will restructure the world, and the advertising industry, as we've known it. In the process it will put some businesses and types of workers out of work, while creating vast opportunities for other businesses and workers. We're in the ramp up phase of that revolution now, with job titles being created that never existed before. Accordingly, this column is going to take a look at what kinds of new advertising & marketing jobs are going to be created, and where the talent to fill those jobs will come from.

As my first column in this series explained, the first viable advertising application for 3D printing is already here in the form of 3D promotional giveaway objects. This is a fundamentally new advertising channel. It's cool, trendy, and best of all, someone else pays for it. Any agency handling national accounts ought to be actively looking for 3D advertising specialists to add to their current staff, and the first person they need to hire is a person to manage 3D promotional campaigns.

3D promotional campaigns manager
Within a couple of years every major ad agency will have this position, because properly done, this position will pay for itself. Here's why. A 3D promotional campaign involves creating a CAD file of some useful object with the company's logo on it and posting that file online for consumers to download and print at their expense. The promotional object becomes a form of free advertising, making the return on investment go off the charts if the object becomes a viral hit. Even if it doesn't, any form of advertising that someone else pays for is worth exploiting. It will be the 3D promotional campaign manager's job to do just that by managing the process of developing and distributing 3D promotional objects.

The best source for talent for these jobs will probably be the online gaming industry. There are people in it who have designed and executed elaborate, successful, campaigns involving virtual 3D promotional giveaway objects. Transitioning from virtual 3D object giveaway campaigns to real 3D object promotional giveaway campaigns shouldn't be that difficult. On the most part, these will be full time, permanent positions at larger agencies, and contract and part time positions at smaller agencies.

3D promotional object designers
Any respectable 3D promotional giveaway campaign will require a useful 3D object be designed from scratch, and that will require someone who knows how to use complex and difficult CAD programs. Initially, these positions will not be difficult to fill. CAD design is taught at universities coast to coast, and fresh graduates will flock to positions that are trendy. However, the supply will start to run out when 3D design goes mainstream. We barely graduate enough engineers to go around now. In the future, agencies may have to recruit heavily from the DIY self taught ranks.

Animatronics and robotic display engineers
Recent advances in low cost robotics and microcontrollers, like the Arduino and Raspberry Pi, have made it economical to create elaborate mechanical and robotic window displays. Think of a cross between Disneyworld's “It's a Small World,” and the most elaborate Lionel train set you ever saw. Based on the concept that people are naturally attracted to motion, animated displays have been part of the advertising arsenal for decades. We're about to see the concept of the animated display taken to amazing new creative heights. Every chain store with mall outlets will want to make their store window the most impressive display in the mall. Some windows will even feature life size android robots that can interact and deliver sales pitches to passer-bys.

The talent for these positions will largely have to come from the Maker DIY movement. The USA doesn't graduate a lot of robotic engineers at this point, and the college training currently available is geared for industrial robotic applications, not entertainment.

3D product development positions
As 3D printing becomes the dominant manufacturing process, there will be a large number of new engineering positions to be filled. The main reason is that we're moving from an economy where a product is designed once and manufactured many times in large production runs to an economy where a product is designed with many variations to be sold in small, even individual production runs. This will require a lot more engineers.

Fortunately, eligible candidates for these positions can be found by the thousands through the online communities at sites like and There are 3D printing DIY enthusiasts who would jump at the chance to go professional, they just need to be recruited.

Home automation system designers
Over the last few years a number of home automation products have become available based the Arduino and Raspberry Pi computers and their ability to sense and control things in the real world. These could be expanded, improved and marketed commercially. Within a few years every appliance in the “modern” home will be remote controllable from both Androids and iPhones.

QA positions
Testing products like an Android/iPhone remote controlled home lighting system, or an advanced store window lighting system, will require QA engineers who understand both software and electronics. Currently, QA engineers can only verify events that happen within a computer. In the future, testing will have to be expanded to allow verification of events happening in the real world, like a light coming on at a certain time. That will take new methodologies.

Fortunately, verifying events in the real 3D world is both easy and inexpensive if you use an Arduino with the right sensors. As a proof of concept I assembled and programmed a hardware test harness specifically designed to test the Philips Hue lighting system for under $200 and with about three days of coding. It worked. I'll be posting the component list and sample code next month.

Future positions
Many more new types of jobs will result from 3D printing related technologies. We're at the beginning of the biggest industrial revolution in 200 years, at least if you believe The Economist. And it looks like this revolution could mean more jobs, not less. Let's make sure that's the case. Start hiring now.

Glen Emerson Morris was a senior QA Consultant for SAP working on a new product to help automate compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley law, an attempt to make large corporations at least somewhat accountable to stockholders and the law.
He has worked as a technology consultant for Yahoo!, Ariba, WebMD, Inktomi, Adobe, Apple and Radius.

Copyright 1994 - 2011 by Glen Emerson Morris All Rights Reserved ' keywords: Internet advertising, Internet marketing, business, advertising, Internet, marketing. For more advertising and marketing help, news, resources and information visit our Home Page.

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