Can still CGI alone deliver that complex emotional hook?

It’s fair to say that what we define as visualisation and what’s possible in terms of 3D content has transformed dramatically and continues to evolve at breakneck speed.

Being in the industry for over 20 years, it’s fair to say that what we define as visualisation and what’s possible in terms of 3D content has transformed dramatically and continues to evolve at breakneck speed. What was once a simple brief; interior or exterior, night or daytime, which camera angles? Is now only the tip of the iceberg. In a fiercely competitive environment and an ever-changing landscape – particularly for commercial real estate post COVID – developers, agents and architects alike need to sell an experience. And for that, the question is this – can still CGI alone deliver that complex emotional hook?

We live in a world where everybody is now consuming moving image and engaging with interactive content digitally, more so during lockdown and whilst working from home than ever before. It is therefore our duty to challenge clients to consider adding interactive content and moving image to their regular kit of property marketing tools. You only have to look at any social media platform to see global brands, small businesses and influencers alike putting out videos and inviting consumer engagement via interactive content. It’s become the norm and people expect it – particularly Gen Z who make up a massive 40% of all consumers.

Why property though?

But why is this so important for the property industry in particular? Because our audiences are looking for an experience – we are asking them to make some major life decisions here – where to live, where to relocate their business and base hundreds if not thousands of employees. They need to really feel the space, experience the ambience, explore the nooks and crannies. Moving content provides the opportunity to tell a story and build an emotional connection through narrative.

Interactive tools such as VR and gaming software allow consumers to actively explore a 3D environment which doesn’t yet exist on their own agenda, mimicking a real life viewing if you like, but from the comfort of their own home or even via mobile devices in the palm of their hand. This type of 3D content can have a dramatic effect on customer behaviour, its far more likely that they will give their precious time to your development when they feel emotionally connected and when they have a sense of autonomy and self-driven process that only interactive 3D tools can provide.


Now is the time…

Pre COVID people were already engaging with digital media all day every day – the pandemic has only amplified the need to engage online with people in this way. We’ve lost the VIP launch event, the topping out ceremony, we will see less marketing suites and there is very limited international travel. Whilst of course these things will return as soon as possible, they perhaps may no longer be the norm or a pre-defined property marketing formula that we all follow to the letter. So why not embrace the more digital 3D tools, engage with customers via social channels and let them explore your development in their own time and on their own terms – ground breaking right!?

Where to start

So, what can you do to ‘level up’ your kit of parts and regular suite of marketing tools – what are we suggesting to our clients to ensure they’re continually redefining the customer experience and embracing innovation;

>>Create 360 VRs in addition to your CGIs – the budget uplift is minimal and but the impact can be huge. From a fixed standing camera position, VRs allow the user to look around gaining a more immersive experience of the place and or surrounding environment. Yes, they’ve been around for a while but are still hugely beneficial.

>>A step on from this… quite literally, are fully immersive virtual tours – these allow you to seamlessly move through the space, giving the freedom of movement which static 360 VRs don’t. You can view then from any browser, desktop and mobile devices which makes them highly accessible for all clients and consumers.

>>Cinemographs are becoming increasingly popular; they are effectively a still/ fixed camera position to which gentle movement is added. These give a ‘real life’ feel and genuinely evoke emotion, breathing life into a still image. They can feel like a private moment captured in time, as such, they’re particularly popular in luxury residential marketing.

>>Gaming software such as Unreal allows the user to explore a realistic 3D environment. Using an XBOX controller, you can literally walk around the space, though doors, round corners, get into elevators and move between floors. It’s the digital version of a real-life property viewing and an incredibly powerful tool particularly for commercial occupiers to understand places, spaces and masterplans.

>>Consider the format of your 3D presentations – it’s possible that a stylised wireframe interactive model would be more useful to you that something highly rendered and photoreal. This is far more cost effective and allows you to highlight more informative content such as local contact, amenities, transport links. You can explode buildings, select plans and view data. It’s a more functional tool, but still highly engaging and a very useful part of the story.


Of course, there will always be a place for that knock out hero CGI, which leaves people guessing ‘is it an image or a photograph’ and that amazes even the most devout property expert. However, what’s clear to us having spent almost two decades creating content for property, is that we must continue to redefine the customer experience in a way that embraces innovation and enhances their experience of the ‘not yet’ built environment.


And in the face of what may well be a ‘new normal’ for the property industry, brands that take the time to understand this new digital landscape – embracing technology to craft their 3D content, thus creating richer experiences for customers – will undoubtedly earn a place of relevance in the minds of consumers and in a post-COVID world.