How Shinjuku Uses a 3D Cat to Draw Attention to 3D Billboard Advertising

In the 2021 Japan Summer Olympics, one of the most visited places in Tokyo was the Shinjuku district. People from all parts of the world flocked to this district particularly to witness the 3D calico cat that had gone viral on social media before the Olympics. The digital display of the cat is broadcasted on a 3D billboard hoisted on a building near the Shinjuku station east exit.

The most amusing thing about this 3D cat was its appearance. Using 3D technology, the company that set it up managed to create a lifelike digital feline. However, there was an agenda behind all this. This article explores how the attention gained helped facilitate advertising.

The Shinjuku’s East Exit Cat

When the companies behind the 3D cat launched it, they did not give it a name. Therefore, for easy identification, the passerby gave it the name Shinjuku East Exit Cat. This name helped the people identify the cat by its location.

Shinjuku is a municipality in Tokyo, Japan. This commercial and administrative center is known to be an epicenter of activities. If you were to compare it with another place, you could think of Times Square in New York City.

One of the main reasons why Shinjuku is so busy and has high traffic is the Shinjuku station, a major railway station in the metropolis. This station serves as a connection point for major wards in Tokyo. As such, all kinds of people use this station to access major parts of the city. In fact, it was reported that about 190,000 pedestrians pass by the Shinjuku 3D billboard every day.

Japan is a technologically advanced country. It is known for its futuristic tech in major cities. Some of the common outdoor technology includes large 3D billboards that light up the city during the day and night. This Shinjuku 3D billboard is among these popular billboards.

Why is the Shinjuku 3D Cat Billboard so Popular?

Apart from being the Times Square of Tokyo, there are other factors that have contributed to the popularity of the 3D cat. 

Specifically, the popularity of the 3D cat was facilitated by social media. It started going viral at the Japan Summer Olympics in 2021. As it was expected, all attention was on Japan as the host of the Olympics. This gave them the chance to exhibit some of their best cultural norms and ways of life.

Additionally, the companies behind the billboard where the cat was broadcasted, Unika and CrossSpace, played a key role in popularizing the board. 

All in all, there are two main factors that specifically contributed to the popularity of the 3D cat. Let us discuss them in more detail.

The Kawaii Culture

Kawaii is a Japanese word that loosely translates to adorable or cute. This is the basis of the Kawaii culture, a form of popular culture in Japan.

The culture of cuteness, as it is popularly known, has a rich origin. It dates back to the 11th century and it is credited to a poet by the name Lady Murasaki. As time went by, the word was adopted to represent things, people, and objects that were deemed cute or charming. 

As a symbol, cats were used to represent the cuteness of this culture. In Japan, cats are considered a positive endearment. To elaborate, cats are associated with good luck and charm. Specifically, the maneki-neko, popularly known as the beckoning cat, is believed to bring good luck, especially in business. Therefore, you will find maneki-neko figurines in most stores in Japan.

Therefore, cats are more of a national treasure in Japan. And what better way to celebrate your culture than to put a giant 3D cat on a billboard in the middle of the street? 

At the time of the launch, the 3D cat had a routine that people associated it with. It would meow to strangers, sleep, eat, and stare at passersby. In other words, the cat kept the audience engaged at all times. Consequently, this attracted a lot of attention to the billboard. From this attention, it was easy to incorporate adverts in the billboard.

3D billboard Technology 

The biggest role in popularizing the Shinjuku East exit cat was 3D billboard technology. You have probably come across the term “Naked Eye” technology before. If you still have to, let us explain it to you.

Unlike regular 3D displays that require special eyewear to see the three-dimensional effect, naked eye 3D display technology projects images in a special way to convey the depth in a three-dimensional plane. This technology builds on the particular properties of LED display technology and brings out a life-like image. 

Naked eye technology utilizes something called a lenticular lens on its display. The screen is made from convex glass that has special emitting capabilities to show one image in multiple views. These viewpoints uniformly create an illusion of depth of an image. Therefore, the observer’s eyes see as if the image is detaching from the screen and filling the immediate space around it.

One has to see the display in action to appreciate how the complexity of this technology creates something quite spectacular. Couple that with something that people love, like a cat, and you will have people staring at the billboard all day. This is another reason this particular billboard in Shinjuku is so effective as an advertising medium.

What are 3D Billboards?

Billboards have come a long way. They originated in the United States in the 1800s. Back then, they were used to attract the attention of large groups of people at the same time. Today, this remains the primary goal of these advertising mediums. Technological advancements led to the introduction of digitized billboards many years later.

Today, you will find digital signage, video walls, and now 3D billboards in major cities across the world. 

3D billboards fall in the category called DOOH, or digital out-of-home. These are advertising technologies meant to advertise products and services to the public. DOOH has proven to be an effective advertising strategy since it was unveiled. One of the reasons is the use of large displays that capture the attention of people.

As you already know, effective advertising or marketing requires you to capture the attention of the target audience first. There are many ways of gaining this attention, one of them being the use of these large displays. 

By incorporating the lenticular lens to create a sense of depth, the attention of the public is much easier to grab. According to behavior psychologists  People are generally wired to want awe and pleasure. In other words, we create an emotion for something that is mesmerizing. 

So far, you can see the cleverness of the 3D cat billboard. First, they use an irresistible animal, place it at the center of the city, and use 3D technology. The combination of these aspects led to one of the most well-executed advertising technologies to date.

How 3D Billboards Work

To achieve naked eye display capabilities, there is a lot of technical complexity that goes on behind the scenes. For this article, we will not explore those technicalities. However, we will give you enough basis to understand it. Just keep in mind that it is all a well-executed illusion.

Holographic Projections  

This is the technique used in 3D naked-eye technology. Holographs are either 2 or 3-dimensional. Holography is the field of study associated with this technology. To make a holographic projection, a special type of lens (lenticular lens) prints images on a screen by scattering light in different directions.

This approach of light scattering changes the perspective of the image. This means the lens reveals different elements of an image, depending on the light refraction. Effectively, this creates an illusion as the image is seen to fill the space around it. For this to work, there are other components such as lasers and other optical components that work in tandem.

LED Display Technology 

Light-emitting diode (LED) display technology is the most advanced display technology today. This technology is quite flexible in terms of manipulation. This means that engineers can tweak the LED pixels and display controller to create something remarkable.

The display used in 3D billboards is quite special. It takes all the features of regular LED display technology and amplifies them for this specific use case. Elements like color accuracy, viewing angles and distance, resolution, and luminance are top of the line. These aspects are coupled with the optical components that facilitate 3D technology.

Characteristics of Curved LED Screen 3D Billboard

One of the key features of the Shinjuku 3D billboard is the curvature. However, this is a common thing for all 3D displays. This curvature is quite important since it helps in creating the illusion of depth and perspective. Let us discuss some more characteristics of these screens.

Displays Full-color Images

For 3D technology, this is quite important. This is because it enhances the perception of depth when an image is projected on the screen. Displays have a range of colors which they are capable of showing. This is called the color gamut. LED displays in particular have at least 16 million colors that they are capable of displaying. This is done through color mixing of the primary colors, RGB.

Provide an Immersive Viewing Experience 

When a display is said to provide an immersive experience, it means that the viewer will be pulled into an imaginative world where unreal things look and feel real. Curved 3D displays have this effect with the illusion of depth that they create.

An immersive viewing experience is responsible for the huge traffic that the Shinjuku 3D billboard receives in a day. In fact, the speakers on the billboard also generate the sound of the cat’s behavior, making it more enclosed.

Dynamic 3D Content 

Static content performs poorly than dynamic content. This was the basis for creating digital billboards. It is a modern approach since dynamic content is all around us. Dynamic content includes videos, animation, and slide shows. All these forms of content have the ability to attract a lot of attention.

Images Feel Lifelike 

The primary goal of 3D naked eye technology is to bring out the feeling of realism or a depiction of the real world using technology. When looking at a 3D screen, it feels like you can touch the objects and feel them. This is not possible since it is all an illusion. All the same, the makers of this technology managed to create something spectacular.

They are Cost-effective

We should start by letting you know that the cost of a 3D billboard is high. These technologies require a lot of expertise and expensive components to manufacture, which makes the final cost of the system high.

The aspect of cost-effectiveness of 3D billboards comes into use. For instance, the Shinjuku 3D billboard controlled by Unika and CrossSpace sells slots to interested businesses. The way this works is by purchasing a slot during a specific time of the day to display the advert. It is upon the advertiser to know what time their advert will perform best. In most cases, buying these slots is more cost-effective than setting up your own billboard.

3D Billboards are Highly Versatile 

Versatility is a concept that means that the 3D billboard is able to adapt to different variables. For instance, a billboard that can show both static and dynamic content can be considered versatile. This gives advertising more flexibility with the type of advertising content.

What is 3D Billboard Advertising?

Using billboards for advertising is a practice that has existed since they were invented. Over the years, new ideas have shaped how we use these mediums to advertise.

Since you already know what a 3D billboard is, the term that you would need to understand here is advertising. While the name itself is self-explanatory, there is so much more that is involved and it helps put more context to it.

Advertising is defined as the use of persuasive words, images, and other forms of media to inform, remind, or compel a specific person or group of people to act. Advertising can be carried out with different objectives. For instance, the advertiser could be looking to increase sales of a product. Also, they could be looking to introduce a new product to the market.

3D billboard advertising can achieve most of these advertising goals better than most forms of advertising. The engagement that this type of display has is unimaginable. Also, 3D billboards tend to create a lasting impression, thereby increasing the chances of brand recall.

Benefits of 3D Billboard Advertising 

Some of the major benefits of 3D billboard advertising are;

  • Your brand will be associated with modernity.
  • There are high chances of brand recall
  • A wide pool of people can see your advert.

In futuristic cities like Tokyo, brands that stand out from the competition are likely to have better returns from advertising. Standing out means embodying the theme of modernity and futurism. The same can be said for brand recall, where people are more likely to associate your brand when they remember an exciting thing. Lastly, the huge traffic increases the chances of conversion.

Disadvantages of 3D Billboard Advertising 

While 3D billboards are praised for their huge potential, there are drawbacks that can make this form of advertising less preferable. Some of these disadvantages include;

  • Initial set-up costs are high. If you are planning to set up your own 3D billboard, you could end up spending a lot of money. This is why most companies look out for rental options since they are more cost-effective.
  • Hard to track metrics. While the chances of appealing to a large crowd are there, it is quite challenging to track essential metrics such as engagement level, time spent, and others that advertisers use to gauge the performance of an advertising campaign.
  • Could be affected by weather. As an outdoor technology, a 3D billboard can be affected by water, especially if it does not have a proper ingress protection rating. 

These challenges are common and they hinder the overall performance of the billboard industry. All in all, people have found walkarounds that have enabled them to adapt this technology and make the most out of it.

Advertising Lessons from Shinjuku 3D Billboard


The success of the Shinjuku 3D billboard can teach us a lot about advertising. Some of these lessons include; 

Popular culture attracts attention

Choosing to use a calico cat as the main poster for the 3D billboard was a deliberate decision. The people in charge knew the impact cats had on the people of Japan. Therefore, this contributed a lot to the attention it was getting. Additionally, the location of the billboard is known to have cat cafes, a common culture in Japan.

Pick a Strategic Location

Another thing, installing the billboard at a train station was another smart idea. In Japan, train transport is used by many people. Therefore, this location was perfect since the chances of getting enough viewership were high. If anything, the location of the billboard should be informed by the number of people, especially pedestrians, that can see it.

Do not focus too much on advertising

The Shinjuku 3D billboard was known primarily for the cat. Most people did not see it as an advertising platform. True enough, only a few ads were shown throughout the day. This meant that people were drawn in by the cat first, then adverts as second. Since most people do not like adverts, this strategy worked like a charm.

When asked, the spokesperson of Unika said that the goal of the 3D billboard was to brighten up the atmosphere for people. This was important since at the time of its launch in 2021, people were still in lockdown following the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Be consistent 

Consistency is a valuable practice in this business. You have to stick to a certain format, storyline, or agenda. The Shinjuku billboard was known for cats and not other animals. On top of that, the cat has a predetermined behavior that people anticipate all the time. These details might seem unimportant, but behavioral scientists will tell you that they are indeed crucial.


Every day between 7 am and 1 am, people near the Shinjuku station east exit expect to see a digital feline creature appear to protrude out of a screen and interact with them. The Shinjuku 3D billboard continues to mesmerize people of all ages, while effectively conveying advertising messages to them. Such is the power of technology.

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