Should Agencies care about the metaverse?

You can't have failed to notice the current interest in the metaverse so we asked a host of agencies what they really thought it means for the industry

By Elliot Leavy

This week, we asked Gravity Road about the incoming metaverse and what it means for brands. The answer, in short, was that the metaverse offers a completely new context to be creative.

For those who still might not fully understand the metaverse, be it due to its mixed interpretations or the fact that it has been subject to many differing headlines, it is the natural conclusion to what virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) enthusiasts have been promising for decades. It is the building blocks of a new form of communication that will now be realised due to the fact that the technologies it is based upon are becoming more widely used by the general population.

To sum it up, VR is the creation of worlds that exist even when not being interacted with (think Ready Player One), while AR is an extra layer set atop reality as we live it every day (think Pokemon Go!).

However, video games themselves are also ‘metaversal' in a sense, with brands being able to interact with them through sponsorships or in-game (aka digital) products much more freely than they did in the past when the consoles and machines weren’t so online (or popular),

With that said, we asked some agencies what they thought the metaverse means, and what opportunities brands should be thinking about in this wild and new space.

Christiaan Lette, UK chief data officer, Wunderman Thompson

Technology doesn’t stand still; this non-stop evolution means agencies must invest in understanding and exploring the art of the possible.

The opportunity the metaverse presents is vast; and the smashing together of digital and physical ideas together with innovation is endless. In November, Decentraland (the biggest metaverse player in the market) hosted live music, launched a new game, Samurai Go!, ran their Tao of DAO Town Hall, hosted the first Toga Party at the Metazoo and launched a number of wearable and NFT packs which brought Apes 3D into metaverses via augmented reality and virtual reality.  

Agencies need diverse strategic, creative, experience, digital, data and technology skillsets to help develop the strongest ideas and experiences for brands, in or out of the metaverse.  

At Wunderman Thompson, we build brands for how they are being used today across the whole brand experience, but also importantly the future, whatever that may look like. We approach the metaverse as another creative channel opportunity, upskilling our teams in its potential. Recently we launched our “Into the Metaverse” trends report and hosted training sessions at our internal L&D event, Spring. There’s nothing like seeing yourself as a cartoon fox in an alternative universe to be inspired about the potential of the metaverse.

Andrew Stephens, founding partner, Goodstuff Communications

As the agency responsible for putting the first (and probably last) ever client focus group in Second Life to better understand, of all things, people’s views via avatars of Richard Branson, Ann Summers and politics, we are always excited by the invention potential of technological progress to help our clients better engage with their customers.

The metaverse, therefore, is absolutely something that we and our clients are interested in, and we will of course, be monitoring developments over the coming years. When the right opportunity arises, you can be assured we’ll get properly involved.

Until then, the majority of our clients have an abundance of more pressing opportunities and challenges that we’ll be focused on helping them with.

Dani Bassil, chief executive, Digitas UK

The concept of the metaverse has been doing the rounds in some form or other for a while now. Whilst it has gathered pace recently, driven primarily by Facebook’s stated focus, the reality is that most still don’t know what the metaverse future holds let alone how brands will track and measure the effectiveness of participation. Fortunately, this is nothing new for most media agencies, we just have to look at where we were with social media and take some of the learnings from there. Whilst these are very exciting times, we are not facing a revolution but an evolution as we move from web2 to web3.

To that end agencies are adapting on two key fronts. Firstly, re-writing the playbook – business goals, expected outcomes, KPIs and agility must all be reconfigured to meet the new world and ever-changing consumer preferences and trends. Secondly, the adoption of new technologies. Whilst this has been high on the agenda for some time, agencies are embracing emerging technology at a faster speed.

Re-writing the playbook, embracing technology at speed and so on runs the very real risk of creating an ecosystem of chaos. To counter, Digitas is developing framework strategies to allow early experimentation – to understand and determine business goals, KPIs, technologies to enhance and everything in between. All designed to build towards a longer-term vision for our clients. This is definitely the time to be curious and brave.”

Diego Chicharro, strategy director, Publicis.Poke

The metaverse is nothing new. Video games already allow you to adopt an avatar, interact and chat with other people around the world. What's new is that Facebook is aiming to create a VR/AR version of this and package it for every single purpose you can imagine, from fitness to work. 

The problem is that VR has been around for decades but hasn’t really caught on, and people just use AR to take selfies.

Even if the “metaverse” ever goes mainstream (five to ten years from now according to Zuckerberg) it won’t change the basic principles advertising is built on. Attention. Emotion. Repetition.

So how should agencies prepare for the metaverse? Personally I’d hold still for now, and focus on getting the basics right. A good idea should work both in the metaverse as well as it does in this universe.

Mark Eaves, founder, Gravity Road

Well, at the most basic level what this means essentially is the creation of whole new realms of time and space. This will play out in lots of different ways and there is a clear creative opportunity there as we are talking new contexts rather than just new concepts.

The other bit is that over the past decade or so, content and creativity has all been about the mass sharing of information. Who owns it no-one really knows, but really its just been about sharing.

What’s interesting about the metaverse is that we are seeing the use of technology and the tools to actually create tailored, one-to-one experiences and interactions. This has always been one of the main challenges of digital: that the uniqueness of an interaction that you can have in the real world has never been able to be replicated in the digital one.

And now because of blockchain, crypto, and the beginnings of digital scarcity, the chance for brands to have really rich one-to-one experiences with someone is ripe for the taking.

The effects of this opportunity for brands to have millions of unique interactions and relationships with audiences will be profound. There will be implications across all aspects of our industry from general customer experience through to big brand set pieces.

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