Advertising In the Metaverse – All You Need To Know
Although the metaverse hasn’t been fully realized yet and is still in its infancy, it is already attracting the attention of big brands for its advertising potential. It isn’t difficult to understand why this new shared space is so enticing for them. Advertisers are interested in any platform that gathers people together, but in the metaverse, these people are interconnected like never before. It presents advertising and selling opportunities to audiences in an environment where there is money to be made from personalization and enhancement of their experiences.
This new environment will bring with it its own challenges. Just as the TV advertisers of the 1970s would be completely bewildered by the new paradigms of pay-per-click advertising or the inbound approach of content marketing, so today’s brands will need to completely rethink the way that they tailor their offerings to the new generation of consumers inhabiting the virtual environments of the metaverse. The old ways simply won’t work.
The metaverse is being touted as a trillion-dollar market opportunity. Big names such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Ralph Lauren, are already investing in these spaces and apparently being quite successful, but even smaller companies who aren’t fully invested are taking the opportunity to experiment and see what works. It seems likely that since advertising has colonized almost every other space where people gather, companies of all sizes and descriptions will find themselves advertising in the metaverse to some extent in the very near future.
What is Metaverse?
The metaverse lives inside computers. It is a realistic representation of real and imagined worlds which people access using wraparound headsets that trick them into thinking that they are there. As with 3D video games, users can interact with each other, but the hope is to expand the scope of what can be done beyond simply waving at people and exchanging typewritten messages. The possibilities for collaboration on work projects, entertainment, socializing, artistic creation and more seem to be boundless.
There are probably potential ways of interacting that will become extremely popular that we haven’t even imagined yet, and of course, advertisers want to be a part of this bold new frontier. Here are a few of the words from the new vocabulary associated with the space that advertisers will need to become familiar with:
Hyper social: a descriptive term that seems necessary given that virtual worlds will offer exponentially bigger opportunities to socialize.
Scalability: the metaverse will be able to host hundreds of millions of simultaneously coexisting people and their avatars.
Accessibility: there will be no limits on access.
New forms of content: the nature of the environment will lend itself to new forms of interactive and immersive content that cannot be replicated anywhere else. They will only be able to function within the metaverse.
A bridge between physical and digital: points of overlap between both worlds will let people interact with products, services, and experiences in novel and exciting ways that couldn’t be achieved before.
Key Metaverse Terms Advertisers Should Know
Meta means something that is self-referential, and verse is a shortened version of ‘universe’. This suggests that the metaverse is an environment that refers to itself. That kind of makes sense as a definition because these digital spaces do have a tendency to become inward-looking labyrinths.
Facebook’s rebranding as Meta in 2021 was a case of it nailing its colors to the mast and showing the world that this particular labyrinth was heading in this new direction. As ephemeral as such places may seem when big technology invests billions in making them real, real is what they become.
Brands will no doubt encourage people to shop in these virtual spaces, either for virtual goods or for things that can be delivered to their door. Brands see the opportunity to approach their audiences in a new space. McDonald’s is already looking into tailoring certain products to the metaverse, although we probably won’t be seeing virtual hamburgers any time soon. More likely they are going to be branded experiences that drive customer loyalty.
But anyway, here are some of the key metaverse terms that advertisers need to know about:
Virtual reality (VR)
In its current form, this means putting on a headset that’s got screens on the inside. When you turn your head the view on the screen changes so that the scene you are in moves around you as it would in real life. If you are also wearing special haptic gloves they can give you feedback by vibrating when you ‘touch’ certain objects within the environment. There is sound as well, so input is available to enough of your senses that you can almost believe you are in another world.
The technology for this has been available for a long time, but it started out as quite basic. Advances in computing power have made it possible to recreate highly detailed and believable environments at a much lower cost than before, paving the way for widespread adoption.
Augmented reality (AR)
Augmented reality means superimposing a computer-generated image over a real-world image. People giving themselves rabbit ears on Snapchat is one example of this or chasing virtual Pokémon on their phone screen while playing Pokémon Go is another.
Mixed reality (MR)
Mixed reality means anything that overlays artificial content onto the real world and lets it interact with the real-world scenery so this can be used as a term to describe AR.
Extended Reality (XR)
Extended reality is an umbrella term for VR, AR, and MR. Immersive technologies that trick the human senses to extend reality and blend real and virtual world elements.
An avatar is a CGI representation of you in a digital environment. It could be a simple flat mugshot that actually bears your likeness, or it could be a 2-meter-tall purple anteater, fully articulated and animated with a bearskin hat.
Blockchain technology uses cryptography to make a permanent record of transactions that is virtually impossible to alter. It is also the basis of cryptocurrencies, like Cardano and Dogecoin, and it also underpins non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
Digital currency, or cryptocurrency, is the main way that people pay for things in the metaverse. It is stored in digital wallets and made secure using cryptography, which makes records of transactions exceptionally difficult to alter, if not impossible. This kind of currency is decentralized, which means that no central authority controls and regulates it. It exists in distributed form.
Non-Fungible tokens (NFTs)
An NFT is another blockchain-based technology that uses the certainty of cryptographically secure digital certificates to establish ownership of all sorts of items like art, music, and collectibles. An NFT attached to something like a digital image guarantees its uniqueness which potentially makes it a tradable item and a source of value.
How To Advertise in The Metaverse
At the moment it is very difficult to guess how brands are going to advertise in the metaverse space. It’s a new digital frontier, so we can only speculate, but let’s do that anyway:
Native Metaverse Advertising
The boring option is to just slap adverts on surfaces in the same way that we do in the real world. Such an approach has worked to some extent in games like Roblox and Fortnite which probably aren’t a million miles from what the metaverse is likely to be. Time will tell whether proved to be effective. Big brands like Coca-Cola have deep pockets and are throwing their money at such places at the moment. Until they think up better ways to boost ROI this is likely to continue.
Advertisers have long known that we are more likely to buy things recommended to us by someone who we trust or admire. Some of the biggest names in places like YouTube make the majority of their money through sponsorships with brands who want to be associated with them for this reason. But now influencers don’t even need to be human. Computer-generated realistic people can be just as popular as flesh and blood versions. Using virtual influencers in creative campaigns can be an extremely cost-effective way of marketing, that will probably never fully replace humans but will certainly be a valid option for some brands.
Fortnite and Roblox have been pioneers of putting on entertainments that reach big audiences, with concerts from Travis Scott, Lil Nas, and Ariana Grande, each of them garnering millions of views. These are no different from real-world events like Lollapalooza to advertisers. Where there are millions of pairs of eyes like in the metaverse., marketers will place ads for their clients in big, bold, and also subtle ways.
A key emerging trend has been the rise of the digital-to-avatar (D2A) economy, where brands sell digital products to enhance users’ avatars. People have already shown themselves to be willing to spend on these kinds of items in games like Fortnite, and the estimated value of this market is projected to reach $74.4 billion by 2025.
Part of the reason why people don’t mind spending so much is that NFTs can now give these digital assets a new legitimacy, a guarantee of uniqueness and provenance, and a value that is appealing to speculators and collectors alike. They could become the cornerstone of virtual economies in the metaverse.
Nike has established itself in Roblox with a feature called Nikeland, so people can close their avatars in the kind of items that they would wear in the real world.
Coca-Cola has done the same sort of thing by adding its metaverse drink to another virtual space called Decentraland. The likes of Gucci, Tommy Hilfiger, Samsung, Wendy’s, and McDonald’s are also offering NFT items in these spaces.
Why Is The Metaverse Profitable For Advertising?
Although there has been talk of the metaverse becoming a huge industry, at the moment it is still cheap to advertise on a virtual billboard, so this might be a good way of investing now to attract audiences who are making their first forays into this environment.
The potential for reaching millennials and Jen Z audiences is huge, and they are particularly attractive targets because digital experiences are already second nature to them thanks to exposure through social media and games. 68% of American adults (163.3 million) are active game players, along with 70% of American children (51.1 million).
Also, with cryptos and NFTs gaining more mainstream presence and awareness, this puts them in a good position for mass adoption metaverse environments. The success of any new venture comes down in part two trust and credibility, and when you’ve got names like respected auction house Sotheby’s opening a virtual gallery in Decentraland, the future for NFTs looks assured.
Gucci has also shown a possible new approach to advertising in this realm with its extremely successful Gucci Garden campaign. This was a virtual version of one of the fashion company’s most memorable sets for a real-world advertising campaign. It allowed Roblox users to walk their avatars through the virtual forest to browse Gucci’s digital fashion collection. Some virtual versions of Gucci bags were sold for more than the price of their physical versions.
Key Benefits of Metaverse Advertising
Advertising has always pounced upon any new opportunity and the metaverse will be no different. Here are some of the advantages that they are looking forward to exploring:
There are no theoretical limits to the number of people who could take part at the same time to experience a location or event. In the 1970s, television audiences did have the potential to reach millions of people at the same time, but nowadays the entertainment landscape is so fractured that simultaneous audiences are far lower. The metaverse means that audiences could reach into the millions for one event once again.
Boundless infrastructure possibilities
If you can imagine it, chances are somebody can build it. A virtual world does not need to be constrained by gravity. Avatars can be of any species, real or imagined, and have any combination of abilities, real or imagined too. The metaverse offers boundless opportunities for creatives to imagine new worlds with new rules.
Big brands, individual artists, and virtually any other kind of creator can benefit from the monetization opportunities within metaverse worlds. Thanks to the uniqueness conferred by NFTs upon artworks, anyone can mint their own pieces and sell them. Ownership of digital assets enabled by blockchain and smart contracts can potentially be truly liberating for digital creators. Some creators are even creating unique and exclusive items to connect with their fans in a more meaningful way.
Advertising always used to be about a scattergun approach. A billboard doesn’t know who is looking at it, but any time we interact with our phones or computers the software knows a lot about us, which has given rise to contextual advertising that changes according to who we are. A whole generation has grown up knowing nothing else and these are the people who will probably first engage with the metaverse. Therefore, they will expect the advertising they are served to be tailored to them and their needs, rather than that old scattergun way of doing things.
Why Should Brands Advertise in the Metaverse?
First Mover Advantage
When the Internet was young you didn’t see many big brands establishing their own presence there. They treated it as a novelty and got on board with advertising and PR when the technology made it possible and when the fact that everyone else was doing the same thing made it unthinkable not to. But many of the later adopters might have been doing themselves a favor by getting involved sooner. Establishing a presence in a new environment is never a bad thing, and it seems like a no-brainer to invest in metaverse advertising while it is still cheap. It means that they can become familiar with the medium before it takes off and use the opportunity to experiment with different types of ad campaigns to see what sticks. In a sense, they should worry less about how much advertising business they can do there now, and see it more as a laboratory where they can tinker with different approaches, learn about changing consumer behaviors, and possibly gain a march on the competition in doing so.
Endless Creative Possibilities
More and more consumers are actively avoiding advertising, choosing to opt out whenever they can. We reached saturation point a long time ago, but with the metaverse, there are new possibilities for engaging with consumers in ways that are less of a chore and more of a delight. TV ads can only stimulate two of our senses, sight, and hearing, but with the addition of haptic technology, metaverse advertisers could potentially find creative ways to include touch as well. If they are successful they may be able to halt the decline in engagement with creative advertising, at least for a while, and then who knows, perhaps technology will eventually be able to satisfy all five of our senses.
Challenges of Metaverse Advertising
Although we have painted a very bright picture of the potential for metaverse marketing advertising, it’s important to be aware of one or two downsides before diving in.
People are more aware than ever that their data is being bought and sold, and that sometimes it is being stolen. Any brand entering the space needs to be able to assure users that none of these things will happen. In any case, the majority will probably hang back and wait to see what happens to early adopters before moving in. The sooner brands can perfect the technology that guarantees absolute security, the sooner they can expect the general public to get involved.
Large tech corporations have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years over the way that their business models work, their approaches to freedom of speech issues, censorship, and privacy. Misinformation and inappropriate content may be controllable through AI, but no system is ever going to be 100% foolproof. Perhaps by using smart contracts, these problems can be ironed out, but then that in itself might put people off joining. There is currently plenty of opportunity for self-expression on the web because so many platforms offer anonymity. If the metaverse polices individual behavior then will it still be as popular? Time will tell.
Lack of adoption
In a recent survey only 34% of US and 28% of UK adults who go online said they were excited about the metaverse and in both countries fewer than 25% of the kind of intense gamers and social media users that pegs them as metaverse early adopters. This also helps to explain why hardware adoption is also an issue. Not many people are buying VR technology at the moment, which means that not much VR content is available to entice them. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg problem. If brilliant content was there and reasonably well-priced high-quality technology was available to engage with, we still don’t know whether there would be enough people willing to give it a try who would then pivot to the metaverse.
The Internet saw mass adoption when most people got smartphones so perhaps some similar must-have innovation is going to do the same thing for the metaverse.
it can be very difficult to calculate return on investment when you’re working in a realm that has no clearly established metrics. This is the problem with the metaverse at the moment. Advertisers and marketers always want to know their ROI otherwise they won’t commit their budgets. Pathfinding brands may find themselves on the rocks at the start, struggling to work out what objectives and key results to apply and what potential return on investment they can hope for. Likes, shares, and subscriber numbers might do for YouTube, but they won’t be adequate here.
Tips to Get Started with Metaverse Advertising
It’s difficult to know what advertising is going to look like in a fully functioning metaverse because we don’t have one yet, but brands have begun to experiment with some strategies and tools:
Augmented Reality Marketing
Augmented reality is a kind of halfway house between full immersion and real life. Accessibility isn’t a problem with AR because customers don’t need to invest in virtual reality headsets. Companies like furniture manufacturers have used AR to show customers what a sofa would look like in the room they are standing in by superimposing it over a live image on their phone. This makes it much easier to visualize which in turn makes the customer much more sure that they are satisfied and ready to buy. The novelty value is very engaging and there are plenty of possibilities for other products too.
Virtual Reality Advertising
The immersive and interactive nature of virtual reality make it appealing to advertisers. Part of what they try to do is control our perceptions, so when we are fully submerged in an alternative universe that can alter our take on reality and affect how we feel, they are bound to be interested in the possibilities. A virtual world is a perfect place to promote products and services in their most idealized versions.
Video marketing is already a well-established practice. In the metaverse, it will be linked with particular themes specific to the customer and be shown in tailored presentations. Experts are predicting that it will make use of voice recognition, facial expression recognition, and motion capture to help advertisers understand how viewers are responding to the content they are seeing.
Live streaming has gained massive popularity in all our lives ever since the pandemic accelerated its adoption, but it’s not without its limitations. If more sophisticated versions can be brought into the metaverse then the natural inclination to want to socialize will be that much more easy to encourage.
The metaverse is still very much in its infancy, but now that the concept has been described it seems inevitable that it will emerge in one form or another. However it turns out, as just the latest of many shared spaces it is also inevitable that advertising will move in to take advantage of the new opportunities it presents. Virtual worlds offer forums for huge audiences to gather in numbers that could never be achieved in the real world. Brands of all sizes would be well advised to begin their explorations of this evolving new frontier.