Defining the metaverse and what it means for brands and advertising

metaverse by gumgum - Image by Reto Scheiwiller from Pixabay

It’s been just 10 months since Facebook caught the world off-guard by announcing its metaverse ambitions.

Since then the business world has been obsessed with finding out what the metaverse means for them and how they can be a part of it.

These are sill early days and much will be set to change in the months and years ahead before any of us can get a clear idea of what the full potential of the metaverse is.

In the meantime, we caught up with Peter Wallace, General Manager, EMEA at contextual first global advertising firm, GumGum, to put five questions to him on how he sees the metaverse and what it has in store for brands…

Peter Wallace gumgum
Peter Wallace, General Manager, EMEA, GumGum – and metaverse expert!

How would you define the metaverse?

The Metaverse is something of a catch-all term for the growing range of virtual worlds which make up the worldwide web. It heralds unprecedented opportunities to engage directly with consumers via cutting-edge technology. 

For instance, it will be possible to take advantage of immersive technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality to enhance experiences.

Many believe that consumers will spend hours each day in the so-called Metaverse – whether to learn, to work, to be entertained, to shop or to socialise. 

It seems we’re on the cusp of a seismic shift. Consumers are spending more time in digital worlds already, engaging with virtual experiences which enable them to explore their passions, participate in cultural events, and engage with communities and like-minded individuals.

inside Decentraland - mediashotz
Web of tomorrow: Decentraland is a metaverse which could be how we surf the web in a few year’s time.

Take the fact that, last year, Facebook announced its new company name, Meta, alongside its intention to build “a 3D place where people can work, play, and connect with others in immersive, online experiences.” 

Other companies are also developing experiences, as well as leveraging virtual and augmented reality technologies to make their own Metaverse-focused plays. The Metaverse is not one specific destination. 

That said, it heralds enormous opportunities for brands which offer genuine utility or entertainment. At its core, it’s a myriad of shared, virtual destinations and meeting places.

Is it worth the hype it’s getting?

There is no doubt that the Metaverse and new, associated, dynamic environments are coming. 

In this platform, arguably you have the most immersive and engaging user experience out of any other channel. 

Indeed, the future of digital advertising lies in responding to a consumer’s frame of mind through a combination of creative and contextual signals to capture consumer attention. 

In order to provide a better experience, we must communicate when consumers are in the right mindset for the message. 

Mindset in the metaverse is likely to be much more active and attentive than with other platforms which users can easily switch off from. 

Yes, the hype is real, advertisers need to lean into this new and exciting platform and be part of its evolution.

How should brands approach it? Is there a danger of being seen to be jumping on a bandwagon? 

This is an exciting and transformational era for the industry. We have the opportunity to reimagine how we connect with people and to deliver ads in new ways across current and future digital environments. 

Yet content and ads are still proliferating at a rate which outstrips the consumer attention available. As such, marketing in the Metaverse will require a paradigm shift.

Whether playing virtual games, or interacting via wearables or smart speakers, new ways to communicate and engage are emerging all the time. 

The challenge of these new emerging platforms is how do advertisers create a value exchange with users in both targeting and creative execution in these more immersive environments. 

Brands shouldn’t use the platform if they aren’t willing to take the time to understand the environment and approach it with a tone that suits the user mindset.

ads in gamerland and the metaverse - Image by Rene from Pixabay
Brands need to understand the metaverse and other virtual worlds they want to join.

What are the biggest challenges to getting your metaverse strategy right?

The metaverse is a totally new concept which will evolve immeasurably over the coming months and years. The biggest challenge this presents is on the fundamental how and why the platform is used for success for advertisers. 

This will require a deep level of understanding of the user and what they are receptive to. If history tells us anything, the way to approach this is by respecting user data and delivering creative messages that drive cut-through for advertisers rather than trying to deliver advertising at every opportunity.

The other challenge this presents is it creates a whole new media channel and screen for advertisers to consider and align with the rest of their media platform strategy. 

There is therefore a need to be able to align targeting strategies with other platforms to ensure consistent approaches.

It’s early days, but do you see any brands doing it well?

Some companies, including Chipotle, Ferrari, Gucci and Vans, have already established a presence on immersive platforms such as Roblox and Fortnite.

Indeed, those who have done this well have turned to existing immersive online experiences and added their own twist. 

From Minecraft to Decentraland, brands do not need to reinvent the wheel but to focus instead on frictionless, collaborative experiences that the audience will enjoy.

The Metaverse brings people together in shared spaces and offers a unique opportunity to interact and engage. 

Take Unilever brand Magnum, which set up the Magnum Pleasure Museum in Decentraland, showcasing original artwork from the brand’s collaborations with painters, designers and sculptors. 

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New pleasures: Brands like Unilever’s Magnum are already testing the shores of the metaverse.

Guests were invited to order a Magnum from a digital vending machine – and the ice cream was then delivered to them, bringing the virtual world into reality. 

Or take Nikeland, where visitors can browse and purchase Nike apparel, footwear and other accessories to wear in the Metaverse. 

This destination has attracted millions since its launch; while a virtual handbag by Gucci sold for more than the price of the bag’s ‘real life’ counterpart.

There will, of course, be growing pains. But, as the Metaverse becomes a bigger part of everyday life, marketers will find new ways to reach and engage their audiences.