Mark Zuckerberg’s recent announcement about moving into the metaverse may have taken the industry by storm, but the concept of a virtual social space has been prevalent in literature and film since before the days of digital.
Until now, it’s always been a relatively abstract concept, only imagined by Hollywood film studios. However, following Meta’s creation that all looks set to change
Even today, programmers and metabuilders are busy finding ways to build this new virtual universe and open the wormhole doors to the real world.
But what does it all mean for the marketing industry? How should brands be viewing this brave new digital world? What are the opportunities? And what caveats do we need to mindful of?
Aaron Goldman, CMO of advertising and software services firm, Mediaocean, takes us through this new paradigm, how it’s set to change our world and what it really means for global brands and their marketing strategies…
In the internet era, we’ve seen aspects of the metaverse in everything from Second Life to Roblox.
However, Facebook’s recent rebranding to Meta brings this concept much more to the forefront.
As the parent company to three of the biggest social media platforms worldwide — each with over one billion monthly active users — there is no doubting the significance of this move to the wider digital ecosystem.
The dawn of the web was a game changer for marketers, as was the advent of mobile, and the metaverse holds the same potential.
So what can brands expect and how can they plan for it?
The metaverse explained
So what is the metaverse? At its most simplistic, it’s the next step in the evolution of the internet and represents a combination of functionality across websites and apps experienced via augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).
The result is an all-encompassing 3D virtual environment which could be used for all manner of activities, including socialising, working, and gaming.
There is, however, still much speculation as to what it will actually look like and what real-life value it could bring. Even Zuckerberg himself is vague, saying “the best way to understand the metaverse is to experience it yourself, but it’s a little tough because it doesn’t fully exist yet.”
When digital giants begin investing in something, however, it’s important to take note – because others are sure to follow.
And, when further developed, the metaverse has the potential to open up new forms of media, content, and advertising.
So marketers should draw on historical shifts in digital technology, as well as previous successes in delivering hybridised, virtual experiences, to anticipate the future.
Take the world of online gaming as an example. It already straddles the real and the virtual, informing our ideas on what the metaverse might look like.
Whether we’re talking about virtual concerts with real-world superstars or travelling real streets to catch digital Pokemon, there are plenty of examples where the online and offline spheres intersect.
Elsewhere, digital objects already have real-world value — think NFTs (non-fungible tokens), crypto currency, and customisable online avatars.
Personalisation and monetisation
In the metaverse, everything will be personalised and monetised. Marketers should take note and be asking: how can we connect with our audience through an experience that adds value?
Another thing brands should consider is how to prepare for technology that will grant access to the metaverse.
Again, we have previous examples to draw from. The transition to smartphones caused fundamental changes in media, advertising, and commerce.
It transformed methods of communication, access to information, and user interactions with brands.
Not only that, but it also forced marketers to think about the formatting of their content and creative — as with the move from newspaper to digital — because what works on desktop or television does not always translate to mobile.
Much of the metaverse will operate based on feeds and Zuckerberg’s vision is an open and interoperable platform. Similar to Amazon or other shopping platforms, companies will be able to submit their assets into an aggregation layer that will make them available to consumers in a structured manner.
Artificial intelligence (AI) will be used to make matches and provide recommendations. And consumer reviews and actual usage will provide a virtuous closed-loop cycle.
Which elements of marketing can we take with us into the metaverse?
One thing that won’t change is the need for omni-channel strategies. Being able to shift seamlessly between online, offline, and hybridised consumer experiences gives businesses, and brands especially, a competitive advantage.
At first, the metaverse is likely to leverage more conventional means of advertising and media to monetise, so optimising for today’s world will help in the short-term.
Over time, however, native formats will begin to emerge. Think of Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram: they each have individual ad environments that grew over time.
This evolution means that ads on those platforms don’t translate to others, but marketers can still achieve a consistent consumer experience with adaptable creative.
Using dynamic creative optimisation (DCO) tools, for example, marketers can take a pool of creative assets and automate changes to ads based on a multitude of factors – from user devices and platforms to ad formats and more.
This flexibility enables them to test, learn, and stay at the forefront of new developments.
In addition, personalised creative will be even more important. If the “one-size-fits-all” approach doesn’t work now, it definitely won’t work in the metaverse, as current demographics are split further with increased choice and personalisation options.
Brands that will thrive are those who know their users, utilise available data to inform ad campaigns, and deliver relevant offerings through highly-engaging content.
As with most significant innovations, there will be a steep learning curve but the past and present can teach us what to look out for.
Fraud, measurement, and consumer adoption should be front of mind for metaverse marketers.
Any new technology, particularly where advertising or commerce is a main vehicle of monetisation, inevitably draws bad actors looking to exploit the ecosystem.
Connected TV is a current example. In its shift to programmatic media trading, CTV has attracted spoofing, bots, and invalid traffic.
The ad ecosystem that supports the metaverse will need independent third-party verification partners to match existing formats and give peace of mind to brands.
What will campaign success look like in the metaverse? New metrics usually spring up for specific ad formats and platforms, but there is always a need to take a comprehensive view of marketing strategies.
From cross-platform frequency capping and breaking down data silos, to leveraging multi-touch attribution, marketers will need to prioritise compatibility and comparability.
VR’s journey into the mainstream has been slow, in part due to the availability, cost, and functionality of the hardware.
In the future, today’s headsets may be viewed like the Motorola Bag Phone of the 1980s.
Refining the technologies users need to participate in the metaverse and making these more accessible will accelerate consumer adoption – and marketing spend will follow.
Although virtual, augmented and mixed reality technologies are still nascent, marketers are keen to know what opportunities these might bring when they meet in the metaverse.
Instead of crystal ball gazing, marketers can look to previous patterns in media and technology to plan their next steps.
By focusing on agile ad creative, holistic strategies, and deeper personalisation, marketers will set themselves up for success both now and in the future.