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The Sphere: How Microsoft Made Advertising a World Event

They get brands like Xbox onto the world’s biggest globe: BCN Visuals is the mastermind behind the first Forced Perspective production on The Sphere. invidis spoke to Davide Bianca, Chief Creative Officer at BCN Visuals.

This took digital-out-of-home to a new dimension: Microsoft snapped up the largest LED surface in the world for its Xbox brand campaign “Power your dreams”. And set two world records at the same time: It was the first anamorphic campaign on a spherical screen – and in terms of surface area, the largest to date.

Advertising or Attraction – the Boundary Becomes Blurry

The creative mastermind behind this world record project was BCN Visuals, a studio of digital creators whose mission is to “blur the line between what is considered out-of-home content and what is an immersive experience,” as Davide Bianca, Chief Creative Officer at BCN, explains. The campaigns his studio creates have left behind the label “advertisement” and have adapted the labels “event” and “cultural moment”.

The Xbox campaign on The Sphere:

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Xbox, Marvel and Avatar – Big Names Require Big Ideas

For big global companies, this proposition hits the bull’s eye. “When you deal with brands like Xbox, Marvel or Avatar, you have to ask questions like: What is going to make people talk about this? How is this bigger than what came before?,” says Bianca.

And campaigns on surfaces like the Sphere turn a product or image campaign launch into something like an opening concert: Thousands of people watch it live while most of them share it online. In addition, you invite influencers and VIP guests which amplify the reach by millions.

Various Sweet Spots for the Live Experience and Social Media

A campaign like that is cost worthy. So it has to be developed in a way that ensures a wow effect that then has the potential to go viral on social. For this reason, BCN starts with what they call a screen study. One of the components that goes into this study is identifying the optimal vantage point – also known as the “sweet spot”.

The Sweet Spot for Forced Perspective

Forced Perspective builds optical illusion elements into the content to achieve a 3D effect: an additional virtual frame that is used for shadows and other special effects. This allows objects to appear further away, closer, larger or smaller than they actually are.

However, the effect of content elements protruding from the screen is only visible from a certain angle – the sweet spot. With L-shaped screens, this is typically in the extension of the L-edge.

In the case of The Sphere, there are several sweet spots. “The sphere is so big that the sweet spots are actually hundreds and hundreds of meters away from it,” Bianca says. That’s why his team tailored the campaign to a few highly frequented key locations, such as the city’s main traffic arteries: “One of the best perspectives is when you drive up and down Sands Avenue.”

36 Million Views in One Day

On the other hand, BCN also had to find the best spots for the “social amplification layer” – for example, the hotel rooms in the high-rise buildings of the city. Microsoft coordinated more than 150 influencers those rooms. The balconies there gave them the best view to live-stream the campaign on their channels. And finally, the 3D effect also had to work in the drone footage that Microsoft used for its own social channels.

For Microsoft, this grand effort seems to have paid off: Within 24 hours the recordings of the campaign accumulated 36 million views, as Davide Biancia recalls. And BCN Visuals already has several campaigns in the making for The Sphere: “It’s building momentum and there’s a lot of interest now, especially for Superbowl.”

Who Will Be on the Screen for Superbowl?

Because in February 2024, the annual football spectacle will come to Las Vegas: On that one evening, everybody in the United States will turn their attention to the city. Which brands are going to take advantage of this insanely large reach remains to be seen.