The hype is dead. It's time to get real about the metaverse
Eighteen months after Facebook became Meta, the metaverse hype has waned. Now it’s time to focus on the Web3.0 upskilling
26 April 2023
The overhyping of the metaverse, coupled with frenzied headlines and something of a gold rush to be ‘the world’s first,’ appears to have finally waned. While the sceptical might want to be dismissive and claim that the interest around something that doesn’t exist yet was always going to fade, agencies and clients alike are steadfastly building for the future, upskilling teams and exploring the latest tech innovations.
“If brands take one thing away from the metaverse buzz, it’s to not assume that the way we interact with the digital world around us today is the end-state. Digital and virtual worlds are an ever-increasing part of our lives and our relationship with those worlds will continue to evolve,” explains Oliver Feldwick, head of innovation, The&Partnership.
The evolution of our digital lives and how we connect with virtual worlds continues to develop at pace, whether it’s under the metaverse moniker or not. Jennifer Berry, chief executive of Digitas UK, agrees: “Whilst the initial metaverse hype might have died down, interest in immersive experiences, in particular activations in gaming worlds, has never been stronger – a reminder of the power of community and human connection.”
Indeed, community platforms are booming with the likes of TikTok and Twitch reporting a huge uptick in consumer usage and engagement, while rapidly rolling out new functionalities to enable communities to form and find new ways to interact. As Mat Scholes, Web3 creative director at AMV BBDO, explains: “Right now, I’m deep in the world of VR & MR. With 30 years of gaming experience behind me, nothing has made me feel the pure joy of play I felt as a child, like immersing myself into a world where I can interact in an infinite number of ways. And as a storyteller, nothing excites me more than a new medium with which to engage people.”
Platforms of potential
With so many new innovations coming on stream, which will have the biggest potential for the industry? AI gets a solid mention across the board, with the timesaving offered on to do lists, tasks through to data-driven insights, finding alternate ways of communicating things, plus generating visuals. ChatGPT, to MidJourney, Notion and Firefly all come in for commendations and as Berry explains: “The generative AI platforms are developing at an astonishing pace. It does feel like we are living though a paradigm shift, and it’s fascinating to explore the art of the possible and where the opportunities lie. The rate of adoption is impressive, with ChatGPT getting to 100 million users in two months.”
Many in the industry believe that it is hard to overestimate how AI can shift how ideas are formed, how information is synthesized, how imagery is generated and how studio workflow is managed.
As Feldwick states: “Its impact is potentially deep and wide reaching. It is something of a ‘Pixar moment’ for the creative industries – much like the invention of the pixel and computer graphics, we are seeing an explosion in new creative techniques and tools that democratise creativity but can also take it to a new level. We are only at the tip of the iceberg of figuring out how to apply and make the most of these new tools, and ever better and more exciting tools are always being developed.”
And seeing how these tools can be applied to other challenges is interesting, reflects Wunderman Thompson global director Emma Chiu who believes an area of immense potential will be to create more responsive avatars, and “to start to really leverage new technology to explore how we create more life-like avatars. More humanised, virtual ambassadors for brands is an area of great potential.”
Upskilling for the future
Across the industry, structured learning and development programmes are in place to ensure teams are engaged and flourishing under pace of change, with examples including AMV BBDO’s AMVR’cade - gaming nights that invite everyone to explore hardware and software in a casual and relaxed setting to better understand it.
VMLY&R Commerce has pioneered a cloud-based Connected Commerce Platform (CCP) to enable collaboration between each other and with clients, making the right data and proprietary tools available at just the right time. An AI Lab, bridging the gap between AI innovation and client businesses has been built by Digitas UK, which is also focusing on early careers including apprenticeships to accelerator programmes including Next Tech Girls.
Meanwhile, The&Partnership is focusing on generative AI. Feldwick says: “We believe that building the modern content studio, assisted, accelerated and augmented by AI, will be the most powerful for our company, our industry and our clients. This means we are developing internal training, tools and skills so that everyone is AI ready, knowing how to work with the new tools that are being developed.”
With these enhanced teams and more chatter around AI capabilities, client demands are shifting, from those that want more knowledge around potential growth opportunities to those looking to boldly explore co-creation with their target audience.
It is the latter that Wunderman Thompson’s Chiu believes can provide deep engagement. “Through co-creation, we can invite customers and fans to create with the brand, without it losing its identity. Brands can invite their audiences in to almost be a creative director, it’s a great way to incentivise their customer. “
Clients want to create connected brand experiences that are more culturally relevant and that deliver growth says VMLY&R’s global chief digital officer Debbie Ellison, and to help build connected brands, there will be a need to remain in a constant mode of learning and exploring. “We need to be channel, culture, social and commerce experts. Focus on people, where they are and what they want and you’ll always build a brand that delivers meaningful value.”
It's a view shared by AMV BBDO’s Scholes who adds: “Last year clients wanted firsts. This year they want knowledge. So, we’re regularly supporting our brand partners with presentations and workshops that cover everything from the glossary of new Web 3.0 language, to the new emerging technology and trends, along with what other brands are doing in this space. Taking the time to build this knowledge, means that together we can more effectively build meaningful experiences that play a role in people’s lives."