Tag Archive: metaverse

  1. What’s happening in the metaverse?

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    Reading the press at the end of 2021, you would have been forgiven for thinking that, by early 2023, we’d all exist mainly as avatars in the metaverse. Facebook had rebranded its parent company to Meta, and we were all breathlessly evaluating the possibilities.

    Clearly, the buzz has died down, and the metaverse is still very much a work in progress. Consumers are relishing real-life experiences after virtual ones dominated the pandemic, so appetite to strap on a heavy VR headset is not as high as anticipated. But that doesn’t mean that the metaverse is dead in the water; indeed, experts are still busy developing and exploring the various opportunities that the new platform has to offer. Mark Zuckerberg announced that he is planning to spend billions of dollars on improving metaverse accessibility – so what are the opportunities and how could brands harness them?

    Travelling from home

    The pandemic hit the tourism industry hard and, although traveler numbers are recovering, the industry feels a little more vulnerable, particularly in the face of climate change. Some destinations are using the metaverse to build their virtual worlds, thereby opening themselves up to people who are reluctant or unable to travel. Tuvalu, for example, is severely affected by climate change: its very existence is threatened by temperature increases, rising sea levels and droughts. The Pacific island’s 12,000 residents are keen to become a digital nation in the metaverse in order to ’preserve’ their country and to ‘remind our children and grandchildren what our home once was’.

    Meanwhile, Seoul’s main motivation is to ‘create a metaverse ecosystem for all areas of its municipal administration’. The platform will also host virtual sessions of cultural events and tourist attractions, opening up access to the global audience. VR tourism has been backed by some of the biggest players in the travel sector such as Delta Air Lines, Hilton Worldwide Holdings and Qatar Airways, with Disneyland providing VR experiences for families. Development of tourist attractions in the metaverse offers up the opportunity for big profits, with minimal cost to the individual. A virtual island called ‘VR City’, which will feature some of the most famous landmarks across the world, could soon be welcoming visitors for just €2 ($2.20).

    Transforming the workplace

    Streamlining the workplace while maintaining efficiency, and making workers feel welcome and comfortable is a priority for businesses. With additional challenges since the pandemic, finding the balance is something everyone is still trying to grasp. An AI CEO could be the answer. That is the route that Chinese company NetDragon has taken: they say it ‘is a move to pioneer the use of AI to transform cooperate management and leapfrog operational efficiency to a new level’. Not only does this mean the quality and speed of work tasks will improve, but the person or people currently doing the job of CEO will be able to move into other segments of the business and facilitate growth. A metaverse workplace would bring a new meaning to collaboration, with employees from any geographical location able to work in the same ‘room’, as if face-to-face. The main benefits expected are improved collaboration, faster training, less office space needed, the simulation of co-presence and fostering company culture.

    A report commissioned by US software company Ciena found that, of 15,000 business professionals across the globe, more than 78% would be open to participating in more immersive experiences within the metaverse, rather than standard video calls. However, there are risks. Workers would need to be trained to ensure that they do not become technologically unemployable, and bosses would need to be aware of loneliness and feelings of isolation among their workforce – virtual collaboration will never be the same as face-to-face contact. Meta’s Angie Gifford highlights that the metaverse is not a substitute for face-to-face interactions but that for ‘the time we spend online, we want to bring up the quality and we also want to bring people together that cannot be together’. A shift to a metaverse workplace also creates some practical problems such as security threats and privacy, and connectivity. It is important, however, to remember that this shift is still a work in progress and there are a lot of developments yet to be made. It is not going to be an overnight change, with Zuckerburg expecting an ‘embodied’ metaverse to become mainstream only in the next five to ten years.

    What does this mean for the world of business?

    All kinds of sectors have opportunities in the metaverse, just as they would in the real world, and first-mover advantage is likely to apply. One example is real estate, whose value is affected by location and proximity, just like in the real world. The Creative Director of the Decentraland Foundation (Decentraland is an area in the metaverse), shared some sales history: ‘when we first sold land it was all sold at $20 a pop, and we sold it all. Now, I think the cheapest you can buy is $3,500. So you can see the speculator already made a lot of money’. Another sector that has been thriving in the metaverse is the fashion industry; users can style their avatars as they please, and clothing brands are only too happy to oblige. Balenciaga, for example, teamed up with Fortnite to create a $10 hoodie, which was also sold in real life for almost $800.

    Exploration is key for companies at this stage, and there are myriad ways for companies to dip their toe into the metaverse. JP Morgan, for example, has a tiger walking through the lobby of their metaverse site, but was a low-risk way to start making a name for themselves in the metaverse.

    And what about advertising?

    It is clear that the metaverse is an exciting new world ready to be explored. Some of the areas we have touched on above are ripe with opportunities for the adventurous advertiser, from fashion and automotive to travel and real estate. The gaming industry is another place to start: wildly popular games such as Fortnite and Roblox are virtual worlds that have been built in the metaverse. These games have youthful audiences of which a high proportion (46%) are women, making the games an attractive prospect for advertisers and a great way to start exploring this sphere. With opportunities such as billboards, live events and downloadable content, there is a lot to learn. Associated products such as measurement tools that will make the metaverse a more viable option for advertisers are being developed – for example, a system that has been patented in the US will be able to measure the complexities of viewability in a 3D format, to allow for more accurate media buying.

    Now is the time to identify approach, not focus on sales

    After the hype around the metaverse when Facebook rebranded to Meta, it feels like the buzz surrounding it has subsided somewhat. But that doesn’t mean that the metaverse won’t ever be big – it will just take a little longer to get there. That makes now an ideal time to experiment quietly, ahead of the rush when it does eventually take off. The focus shouldn’t be on sales – that will come later – but on identifying the right approach, so that when the crowds do come, sales will increase too.

    Header image by UK Black Tech on Unsplash

  2. Jumping into the metaverse: what do advertisers need to consider?

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    The concept of the metaverse isn’t new. Even by the time sci-fi writer Neal Stephenson coined the term in 1992 to describe a 3D virtual space, the idea had been around for a few decades. It emerged in concepts as disparate as Nasa’s virtual reality headsets of the mid-1980s, and the Pokemon Go craze of the mid-2010s. Then, of course, there’s Fortnite. If you’re the parent of teen- or tweenagers, your offspring are probably more familiar with the metaverse than you are. They’re probably rolling their eyes as the advertising industry falls over itself to jump on the metaverse bandwagon.

    Because 2021 was the year that the metaverse came to the attention of the advertising industry, thanks largely to Fortnite gigs that attracted audiences of millions of users and, of course, Facebook’s rebrand to Meta and focus on the metaverse. As 2022 gathers speed, it’s all we can talk about: 49% of marketers believe that the metaverse will shape their strategies in 2022.

    The metaverse is an exciting and daunting prospect for many marketers wondering how to jump in without falling over. What should they consider?

    Don’t be afraid to test and learn

    Entering into the metaverse will be a steep learning curve for most of us. There are new technologies, new formats, new measurements, new tools and new relationships to navigate. But that isn’t a reason to delay having a go. The metaverse will have equal importance to the ‘real’ world in the future, so there is a huge opportunity for early movers. At this early stage, brands should focus on finding what works for them, rather than driving ROI – that will come.

    Sign up to platforms and have a look around, talk to your kids (seriously – they’ll know a lot). Approach your media agency about low-risk ways to dip your toes in the water. This could be hosting a virtual event or adding value to a partner’s existing activation. Even posting a 360° video on YouTube is a good baby step into the metaverse. The key is to have a go and don’t be afraid to fail. It’s a wild west out there and there’s no shame in failing on a new frontier.

    As you experiment in the metaverse, remember to think about your brand name and brand identity. Many brands are already trademarking theirs for the metaverse, as they do in the real world. You should also consider how you will use your brand name and branding. Will it be exactly the same as in the real world? Or will you experiment with two different versions of your brand identity – one for the real world and one for the metaverse?

    The old truism still stands in the metaverse – always focus on the consumer

    Advertising is seen by many – perhaps most – consumers as a necessary evil in order to access the content they want. The metaverse is the perfect opportunity for the advertising industry to reinvent itself as a player that brings value to be enjoyed, instead of disruption to be tolerated. The key is to focus on authentic and rewarding experiences. How can your brand enrich and enhance a user’s experience of the metaverse? People are people in the metaverse as well as in the real world. They care about status, causes, appearance, experiences and convenience. How can you help them to enhance one or more of these aspects?

    Success will lie in participation, collaboration and understanding of the context; this means that advertising is likely to be closer to what we understand as brand activation and experience rather than display and video. Meanwhile, focusing on the consumer will lead to advertising that is timely, relevant and contextualized to their environment and mood. That in turn will drive the next level of contextual marketing, which is going to be so important in the post-cookie era.

    The metaverse will blur the lines between ‘real’ and ‘virtual’

    The metaverse will blur the lines between a person’s ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ lives, particularly as they spend more and more time there. AR and VR will further blur that line, creating experiences that bring the two worlds ever closer together. This will mean that many of the barriers that marketers face today won’t be relevant. The most creative brands will be the ones that succeed – as long as that creativity is always harnessed to enhanced and elevate the consumer experience.

    There are plenty of brands that are already embracing that creativity and jumping in. Nike has filed for patents for virtual goods and the ability to build virtual retail environments to sell them in. It has also acquired RTKT, which creates virtual sneakers and collectables for the metaverse. Meanwhile, Roblox hosted the Gucci Garden, a virtual recreation of a real-world installation in Florence. Visitors to the garden could view, try on and purchase digital Gucci products to dress their avatars, and then walk through themed rooms. As they went through the garden, their avatars would absorb elements from each room. These are just a few examples: a quick Google search will provide many more case studies of successful metaverse activations.

    The opportunities that the metaverse presents aren’t just consumer-facing. The richer experiences that it facilitates will generate richer data and more detailed insights into consumer behavior and desires. We as an industry will need to develop new, more sophisticated tools to fully understand those insights in order to be able to drive higher ROI.

    Marketers also need to be aware that there are opportunities in the metaverse not just for advertisers, but more nefarious players too. As advertising dollars follow eyeballs, so bad actors follow ad dollars. Awareness of brand safety and ad fraud is as important in the metaverse as in any other digital environment.

    Conclusion: new world, same rules

    Research, experiment, focus on the consumer, be creative: the recipe for success in the metaverse isn’t all that different to the one in the real world. The difference is that the metaverse is a whole new world, with endless opportunities, but also risks and responsibilities. The advertising industry has an opportunity to shape, and be shaped by, a new world. Let’s embrace that opportunity with creativity and decency.

    Header image: thinkhubstudio/Shutterstock

  3. CES 2022: The future of technology and the future of events

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    The new normal for major events

    No one expected this year’s CES to feel the same as the ones that have gone before it. After all, in the weeks leading up to the CES 2022, many key tech companies announced that they would not be attending in person, including Google, Microsoft, LG, Meta and Panasonic. Delegates from countries across the world wondered if they should fly to Las Vegas or attend virtually. Many chose the latter: while in 2020, when reports of a new virus were only just emerging from China, 170,000 people attended, this year there were only around 45,000. There were far fewer speaker and panel sessions this year, with some being cancelled last minute (Paris Hilton was a no-show for her talk on NTs), and the exhibition halls had empty spaces.

    However, the lower attendance figures and lighter content agenda didn’t mean that this year’s show was a damp squib. There was certainly a feeling of muted excitement over the three days of CES. People were excited to be away, excited to be amongst other people, excited to feel human connection and get back to something resembling normal. The event felt like an experiment in the future of events: all delegates were fully masked at all times and had to show proof of vaccination to pick up their passes, while this year’s must-have swag was the humble rapid antigen test. Most speaker sessions were hybrid, with in-person as well as at-home audiences, while a number of panel sessions were also entirely virtual, with panellists dialling in from their home offices. It’s difficult to see events losing that hybrid element in the ‘new normal’.

    The key themes from CES 2022

    While CES covers a huge range of technology-related themes, there were a few that stood out this year – including one by its relative absence.

    The metaverse… or not

    This delegate went into CES expecting to have a plethora of sessions about the metaverse to choose from. Strangely, however, there were only a few, including an excellent one on the role of voice tech in the metaverse. We expect that this will be different at the 2023 event; who knows, we might even be able to attend CES in the metaverse soon!

    AI is increasingly pervasive

    Artificial Intelligence was, of course, everywhere – from a panel about AI policy to Samsung’s home assistant, AI has become the norm, with everyone from marketers to engineers incorporating it into their everyday work and indeed their everyday lives.

    The proliferation of technology

    The phrase ‘the acceleration of the technology curve’ was on everyone’s lips at CES 2022, as they reflected on how the pandemic has driven a proliferation of technology in our daily lives. Back in the pre-Covid days, work mostly took place at the office, shopping was normally done in the supermarket, at the mall or on the high street, and subscribing to streaming services was something that was more common amongst young people. Now, just two years later, a much greater percentage of our lives takes place online, including for those who were previously ‘tech-phobes’. This has led to greater opportunities for brands to interact and engage more meaningfully with their consumers, as highlighted in a session on how technology has flipped the consumer experience – more on that later.

    Cars cars cars

    Many attendees and commentators remarked wryly that the Consumer Electronics Show has become the world’s biggest car show, and with good reason. The whole of the Las Vegas Convention Center’s West Hall was dedicated to cars, with a focus on electric vehicles and autonomy. GM, for example, talked enthusiastically about its collaboration with Cruise to create an autonomous ride-hailing service, while the talk of the town and the exhibit that caught the attention of the international press, was BMW’s colour-changing car.

    ECI’s highlights from CES 2022

    While the content agenda was undoubtedly more sparsely populated than in 2020, and the exhibition hall had some rather large gaps, there was still a lifetime’s worth of knowledge to be learned at CES in 2022. Here are just some of our highlights from this year’s show.

    Samsung is always one of the big players at CES, and this year was no exception. Vice-Chairman and CEO of Samsung Electronics, Jong-Hee (JH) Han took to the stage the night before the start of CES to talk about his company’s vision for the future. The ‘Together for Tomorrow’ platform empowers everyone to create positive change and is the driving force behind collaborations that address some of the planet’s most pressing challenges. This includes sustainability – the key topic of Han’s talk – and inclusivity. Han claimed that Samsung has looked at every step of a product’s journey, from manufacture to disposal, and is innovating at each stage to make the company more environmentally friendly and fit for the future.

    One of the keynotes to take place during CES 2022 was on the tech trends that are required knowledge for business in the new normal. Qualcomm’s CMO Don McGuire pointed out that connectivity is now as pervasive as water and electricity, and that 5G is a unifying connectivity fabric which allows for scalability and impact far beyond download speeds. It will drive change in industries, communities and societies, driving the metaverse and the flexibility, openness and collaboration that comes with it. McGuire also talked about the acceleration of the technology curve (there’s that phrase again) and how brands need to harness advanced technology to engage more deeply, more naturally and yet not invasively with consumers.

    The ‘Content to Commerce: How tech has flipped the consumer experience’ session was an example of how virtual speakers can speak successfully to an in-person audience. Marketing and digital leaders from McDonald’s, GM, Target, Instacart and Salesforce explained how that accelerated technology curve has driven real change in their relationships with their consumers. Target CMO Cara Sylvester said that the most exciting development driven by the increased uptake in tech was the deepening of relationships with their consumers through omnichannel retail experiences; offers are personalized and connection is based on an always-on approach, rather than an episodic one. GM’s Chief Digital Officer, Edward Kummer, explained that the tech had driven – and empowered – the company to serve customers how they want to be served, whether that’s solely in person, solely online, or a hybrid, omnichannel approach. All the panellists agreed that the pandemic had taught them that success lies in the ability to ‘perform while you transform’ – to continue to deliver top-quality products and services whilst simultaneously adapting to a rapidly changing landscape.

    Perhaps surprisingly, one of the most powerful sessions for this writer was on the role of voice in the future of technology, specifically the metaverse. Abraham Gomez of Wild and West NFT and Matthew Barnett, Founder and President of the Dream Center in Los Angeles talked about the potential of the metaverse to help people in need. In the metaverse, barriers such as race, gender, wealth and class are dismantled, leaving only voice. By ‘hiding behind’ an avatar, people who struggle in the ‘real world’ with social and mental health problems might be more willing to talk about how they feel and what they need in order to live better lives – and the Dream Center, which has been given territory in the metaverse by the Sandbox, will be able to listen and provide that help. Considering that Gomez believes that we will spend the majority of our time in the metaverse (just think about how much time we spend on our phones right now), it’s encouraging to learn of its altruistic opportunities.

    CES was a version of what it always has been – an exciting, heady mixture of tech, innovation, marketing and networking. That all those elements were slightly muted this year did not take away from the event’s importance: indeed, many – including organisers of other events such as SXSW – have seen this year’s CES as an important pioneer in the future of large events. While many of those who attended perhaps wondered briefly if they should be there, I’m sure that they all left feeling invigorated and inspired. I know I did.

    Header image: Alex Matthews

  4. The Metaverse: Marketers, you are being notified

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    Deyon Brown, our Digital Consultant in North America, explores the Metaverse – the latest digital frontier. What do marketers need to do about it?

    Remember when Artificial Intelligence (AI) was the talk of the town a couple of decades agoIt was the next step in our evolution to live like that 1960s animated sitcom, The Jetsons.  While AI has indeed become a part of our everyday livesmost of us aren’t living anywhere near the Jetsons’ fully-automated lifestyle. Who has an autonomous robot maid?! First aired in 1962, the Jetsons lived in a world 100 years in the future.  We are now only 40 years away from that date and the world is being introduced to the newest piece of technology that could have you living in Orbit City – or any other city for that matter – via the virtual verse. Welcome to the Metaverse, the future of the internet. 

    What is the Metaverse?

    The Metaverse is a digital reality interface that uses features of social media, online gaming, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and cryptocurrencies. It allows users to interact with one another on a multidimensional level. Instead of just viewing online content through our devices, users will be able to immerse themselves in a space where the digital and physical worlds meet.  Think of all the sci-fi movies and TV shows you’ve seen that feature scenes where VR and AR were part of the story. Star Trek: Next Gen’s holodeck1999’s The Matrix and 2009’s Avatar would all be considered part of the Metaverse.  

    The Metaverse is happening now, not in the future

    The average person likely thinks that the Metaverse is impossibly far in the future or not in my lifetime‘. However, Metaverse creators are hard at work now, making the platform a thing of the very near future. Coined in 1992, Metaverse conceptualization appears to have exploded while we were locked down in a global pandemic, as we were forced to explore other avenues of interaction besides physical. The technology and online gaming sectors have long researched the Metaverse concept of bridging VRAR and the multidimensional. Now, they’re leading the charge to make it a reality in our lifetime. The gigantic tech conglomerates are investing heavily in developing Metaverse ecosystems and devices. Indeed, Facebook has put a huge bet on what it views as the next digital frontier by renaming its parent company ‘Meta’. Meanwhile, venture capitalists are taking note. They’re investing in creators who are building processes to make the Metaverse more accessible and engaging. 

    A new world for the advertising industry

    For marketers, the Metaverse will be a new advertising landscape to navigate, but one loaded with opportunitiesBrands will have access to an entirely new platform where they can engage users just as they would in a physical environment. When the Metaverse concept becomes reality, users will be able to immerse themselves in any experience or activity, at any time. Imagine the interactive, dynamic and personalized ad placement possibilities that could be achieved during the time a user spends in a Metaverse ecosystem. Interactive live events through gaming platforms are already used as a means of simultaneously engaging millions of users. Brands have recognized the potential in reaching such large audiences. Roblox, an online gaming platform, has more than 200 million monthly active users, two-thirds of whom are age 16 and under. This is the ideal built-in audience for advertisers to begin building brand loyalty.  

    More potential than the internet

    Brands are, rightfully so, cautious of this new medium and its lack of oversightMuch of the Metaverse’s infrastructure is yet to be defined. The technology to support millions of users participating in the same activities and experiences doesn’t yet existEven if the first Metaverse iterations fall short of what sci-fi lovers have envisioned, it is still likely to have significant valuation as a new platform and content provider. Should it supersede the internet, the economic upside would surpass its predecessor based on greater reach, greater user interactions and greater commercial activities. Countless new companies, products and services will emerge to manage the functionalities of the new medium. These will include ad delivery interfaces.  

    Adapt or die

    There won’t be an announcement that the Metaverse is here, so don’t wait for one. Instead, it will be a growth of innovative capabilities, products and services intersecting with each other. The result will be an encompassing arena where everyone will have access.  

    Marketers, the future is now. If you haven’t already, begin researching how best you can seamlessly integrate your brands into this new medium. In this instance, the adage ‘adapt or die’ couldn’t be more poignant. 

    Header image: ESB Professional / Shutterstock

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