Meta completes a year, Where’s the Verse?

While industry watchers acknowledge metaverse's potential to unlock sustainable revenue models, they believe there should be some forethought about integrating it into every brand strategy

e4m by Shantanu David
Published: Nov 2, 2022 8:50 AM  | 7 min read
metaverse

It was October 28, 2021, when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg went all in on the concept of the metaverse. By changing the name of his parent company to Meta, he unveiled plans for a new digital playground in which individuals, celebrities, brands, and organisations could all socialise, play, work, and maybe one day even live, "one day" being the operative term here.

With Meta’s recent dismal quarterly reports and dives in its share prices, perhaps the most positive news that Zuckerberg has come out with in a while is that the company’s engineering team has finally figured out how to properly depict feet on screen.

However, other brands have kicked off their own metaverse platforms to varying degrees of success. As Facebook completes one year of its new avatar (pun intended) as Meta, exchange4media takes a look at how immersed both advertisers and audiences truly are.

The Facts

Vivek Kumar Anand, Director – Business & Innovation, DViO Digital, says we have to accept that the Metaverse as a concept itself needs to be better established and understood by everyday people beyond some vague thing emerging out of augmented reality, virtual reality, 3-D and mixed reality.

“We know that an entire ecosystem will be built through web3, but we are just scratching the surface, and the same reflects in terms of growth for Facebook. When Facebook changed its name to Meta, its vision was to own the entire stack, from hardware to content, as Apple does. It has a good hardware product in Oculus [a VR headset] and is positioned to argue that VR is the future,” says Anand.

Aashutosh Katre, Director, Yellow Seed, says, "When we list down brands who’ve joined the race to Metaverse, NIKE (November 2021) and its NIKELAND is the first name to be mentioned. Amongst other participants, we have other key global participants across industries: Samsung, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Louis Vuitton, Coca-Cola, Wendy’s Balenciaga, Adidas, and Ferrari.

Manish Solanki, COO and Co-Founder, TheSmallBigIdea, says that for brands, the metaverse is a potential marketing platform to reach the digital-first audience, create a digital ecosystem, and unlock a sustainable revenue model.

“The immersive and experiential nature of metaverse has made it a very interesting place for a lot of luxury and entertainment brands that are already making forays into this space.  As of now, there are two ways in which a brand can participate: either they can collaborate with existing metaverse platforms and customize the environment, or they can create their own metaverse environment, where users can embark on quests and gather digital collectables,” says Solanki.

“Once more brands venture into the metaverse, virtual space can be rented to set up outlets to sell the NFTs, allowing users to explore the site, sample novel products, and even evaluate customizations without physically commuting to a store,” he adds.

The Figures

According to a report, Horizon Worlds rolled out to all Quest users in the US and Canada in early December; its monthly user base has grown by 10x to 300,000 people, but it has yet to be a significant number of users.

“But when we look at their software tool like Spark AR- it is leading the AR development, and as per one of the reports released in October 2021, more than 700M people use AR effects across Facebook's apps & devices every month, and it's an impressive number. Metaverse is a work in progress; however, players like Facebook, Roblox, and Unity are poised to leverage this anticipated growth,” notes Anand.

Katre adds that consumers' inclination towards the Metaverse has grown to the extent that 51% of global consumers have shown interest in purchasing virtual products. “Besides brands, individual creators who produce AR/VR-based content on Instagram also have grown by 120%. This interest in Metaverse has pushed Meta to invest $150 million to empower next-gen creators to produce high-quality content for the platform,” he says.

Amanjot Malhotra, Country Head - India, Bitay, points out that video games and virtual worlds are easier to build and design, and XR wearables come in a range of price points (so they’re becoming more affordable). “By 2024, there will be an estimated 1.7 billion augmented reality user devices globally. In a study from the Pew Research Center and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center, 54% of experts said that the metaverse will be a more refined, immersive, and well-functioning aspect of daily life for half a billion people or more globally by 2040,” he says.

That being said, third quarter trading volume for the top 10 metaverse projects may have fallen 80% compared to the second quarter, but analytics firm DappRadar suggests that interest in virtual worlds still remains. Besides, the metaverse sector has been hit with a fair amount of negative press as of late, particularly around suggested low user activity across certain platforms, such as Decentral and Meta — reports which they have refuted.

Malhotra refers to DappRadar, which noted in an October 20 report that while trading volumes have taken a sharp hit during Q3, the average number of NFT sales for these 10 projects only decreased by 11.55% compared to Q2.

“DappRadar explains that lower trading volumes could merely reflect decreasing asset prices and not necessarily a lack of interest, noting that: “We consider this a bullish sign because it shows that the hype for these types of projects hasn’t decreased. Instead, the fall of cryptocurrency prices has affected the projects’ overall trading volume instead of a lack of interest,” he quotes.

The future

Sukrit Singh, Founder- XP&DLand, observes that many brands have turned to the metaverse and Web3 tools to not only stand out in terms of offerings but also cater to a change in perception that they are becoming more tech aware. It has been a significant driving force for most brands. It has led most of them to continue exploring new iterations of web3 concepts, be it NFTs, Tokenization, Metaphysical Experiences or more.

Anand Singh, Co-Founder and COO at Sure About Shor, notes that with decentralised currencies and NFT also being a part of the WEB 3.0 the total number of users is approximately 2.3-2.5 million worldwide, with the metaverse expected to grow at 38% CAGR between 2022-30, even as Meta expects 1 billion users by the end of this decade.

Rajagopal Menon, Vice President, WazirX points out that the brands will go where audiences go. “Right now, most brands are tipping their toes in the Metaverse. Experiments are being conducted by different marketing managers and getting their hands dirty. Most managers understand that these are early days yet. The technology is still new and the critical mass of the audience is not there yet,” he says.

“But most brand managers understand that their TG spends ads in front of a screen every day playing games, watching videos, scrolling through endless content. These are different universes - Whatsapp, Hotstar, Instagram, ShareChat Universes. One day they could transform or at least evolve into a more immersive experience,” adds Menon.

Post Script

All the activations mentioned above are great examples of brand marketing in the metaverse. But there is still much to consider before integrating it into every brand strategy.

“There’s a reason why pioneering sci-fi novelists like Octavia Butler and Isaac Asimov warned us of the woes of futuristic technology. The metaverse comes with a heap of data, privacy, and security concerns,” muses Malhotra.

He concludes, “Any new tech innovation requires more security measures, but the metaverse will demand new methods for data privacy and protection. For example, personal verification could require more user data, increasing privacy risks. Some experts are concerned about the metaverse being used as the ultimate surveillance tool. And if something happens in the metaverse, what are the legal ramifications in the digital and physical worlds?”

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Centre forms panel to mull if competition law needed for digital companies

A parliamentary panel has earlier recommended that there is a need to act against anti-competitive behaviour in the digital market

By exchange4media Staff | Feb 7, 2023 9:04 AM   |   1 min read

Digital

The Centre has formed a special committee to consider if there is a need for a separate competition law pertaining to digital companies, media networks have reported.

This comes after a parliamentary panel recommended the need to act against anti-competitive behaviour in the digital market.

It has also been suggested that a law be put in place to ensure a fair and transparent system.

Towards the end of last year, Minister of Information and Broadcasting Anurag Singh Thakur informed the Rajya Sabha that over 2,800 digital news publishers have furnished information under the Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code of the Information Technology Act, 2000 rules. These rules provide a code of ethics for digital media publishers.

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Google Bard, direct competitor to ChatGPT, announces soft launch

Bard, which is based on Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA), was test released earlier than expected in direct response to ChatGPT

By Shantanu David | Feb 7, 2023 7:26 AM   |   3 min read

google bard

The AI arena continues to heat up with Google announcing the imminent launch of Bard, its director competitor to Microsoft-backed ChatGPT, which has recently taken the world by storm.

Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai announced the soft launch of the AI to "trusted testers" in a blog post on Monday, Feb 6, US Time.

Pichai wrote, "Bard seeks to combine the breadth of the world’s knowledge with the power, intelligence and creativity of our large language models. It draws on information from the web to provide fresh, high-quality responses. Bard can be an outlet for creativity, and a launchpad for curiosity, helping you to explain new discoveries from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to a 9-year-old, or learn more about the best strikers in football right now, and then get drills to build your skills."

Bard, which is based on Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA), was test released earlier than expected in direct response to ChatGPT, developed on Open AI, which has been heavily backed by Microsoft (the tech giant recently announced a further  USD 10 billion investment in the technology and said it will be introducing it to a suite of its products including but not limited to MS Office, Bing among others).



ChatGPT has been making headlines, and indeed writing the news, with the conversational AI having been used to do everything from writing code and composing music to writing college essays and news articles to even passing business and law school exams, all at the prompting of a few words.

This is a huge potential risk to Google Search, the foundational product of the tech titan and a major contributor to its revenue through the advertising and preferential placement of products on its search pages.

As Pichai wrote, "One of the most exciting opportunities is how AI can deepen our understanding of information and turn it into useful knowledge more efficiently — making it easier for people to get to the heart of what they’re looking for and get things done. When people think of Google, they often think of turning to us for quick factual answers, like “how many keys does a piano have?” But increasingly, people are turning to Google for deeper insights and understanding — like, “is the piano or guitar easier to learn, and how much practice does each need?” Learning about a topic like this can take a lot of effort to figure out what you really need to know, and people often want to explore a diverse range of opinions or perspectives."

While tech enthusiasts have celebrated its achievements, several academicians and researchers have urged caution, with several universities even changing the format of their entrance processes so students can't use the AI to write their college application essays. And while this article hasn't been written by an AI (yet), watch this space for more.

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Will Google announce ChatGPT's rival on Wednesday?

The company has sent out a YouTube invite, indicating plans to strengthen Search and Map, possibly by incorporating the AI chatbot

By exchange4media Staff | Feb 6, 2023 1:09 PM   |   2 min read

google

Google is expected to announce its chatbot technology as early as on Wednesday as it responds to the success of ChatGPT, a Microsoft-backed AI chatbot that has caught global attention over the last three months.

The tech giant has scheduled a 40-minute event for Wednesday 8 February (7 PM IST), where it is expected to reveal its plans about incorporating its own AI chatbot (LaMDA) in Search, Maps and other products to make them interactive.

“We're reimagining how people search for, explore and interact with information, making it more natural and intuitive than ever before to find what you need. Join us to learn how we're opening up greater access to information for people everywhere, through Search, Maps and beyond,” reads the description of Google's YouTube invite for “AI-Event”.

Giving a hint in this regard, Sundar Pichai, the Chief Executive of Google’s owner, Alphabet, said last week during earning calls that the use of AI had reached an “inflection point” and the company was “extremely well positioned” in the field. He also spoke about making these language models available in the “coming weeks and months” so that people could engage directly with them.

The Google spokespersons are silent about it though, perhaps to create more suspense around the launch.

LaMDA shot to prominence last year when Google suspended and then dismissed an engineer after he went public with claims that LaMDA was “sentient”.

Large language models such as LaMDA and the one behind ChatGPT are types of neural network, which mimic the underlying architecture of the brain in computer form, and are fed vast amounts of text in order to be taught how to generate plausible sentences. ChatGPT has become a sensation after being used to create all sorts of content from school essays to job applications.

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Public support is much appreciated, tweets Musk

The CEO has posted about the last months being tough due to the struggle to keep Twitter from going bankrupt

By exchange4media Staff | Feb 6, 2023 12:43 PM   |   1 min read

Musk

Elon Musk has spoken of the last three months being "extremely tough". On his official Twitter handle, he said that it was difficult saving Twitter from going bankrupt while handling Tesla and SpaceX.

Musk even asked for support from the public, saying that he wouldn't "wish that pain on anyone".

Musk has been taking several measures to appease advertisers after many of them have walked out of the platform.

Late last week, he announced that Twitter would be sharing revenue for ads appearing in reply threads. This is, however, for creators who are Twitter Blue subscribers.

 

 

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I believe there would be a lot of value from Web 3.0: Gulbahar Taurani

At unveiling of the Dentsu-e4m Digital Advertising Report 2023, Gulbahar Taurani spoke about Web 3.0 and how it is changing the point of view of brands

By exchange4media Staff | Feb 6, 2023 11:17 AM   |   3 min read

Gulbahar Taurani

Web 3.0 has become quite a point of discussion at organizations as more companies try to keep with the new digital trends of the world. Speaking on this very important topic was Gulbahar Taurani, Managing Director and CEO, ISC, Philips Domestic Appliances, at the unveiling of Dentsu-e4m Digital Advertising Report 2023 last Thursday.

Taurani spoke about the three pillars of Web 3.0 in an organization and how this is a new technology which everyone needs to make the most of.

Taurani explained the two pillars in detail and how they build value for brands. “When I was looking at Web 3.0, I think it is imperative for all organizations to actually adapt to this new development or trend. Because the three key pillars on which the entire Web 3.0 is being based is decentralization, transparency, and security. In my own opinion, if I look at security, one of the concerns with all the digital platforms, and with lot of consumers and customers, is the security of their personal data, and also their own privacy. So, I think one of the things that this is going to solve is this aspect. Now it is not going to stay with few bigger players but it is going to get decentralized. But this also puts a lot of responsibility on a lot of organizations and other players.

Second, I think as far as transparency is concerned, the availability of information, sharing of information and also the authentication of the information will become easier. Sometimes we really doubt whether the information provided is right or wrong. So, these are two pillars where I don't see any friction or any tension.”

He then went on to talk about one challenge Web 3.0 might throw that organizations can be mindful of. “Where I see majority of the tension and as an organization or as a consumer is, we say web 3.0 is more efficient. And when we say web 3.0 is more efficient, we say for example, today as an organization if I'm interacting with a consumer, I need a third party to do my transaction as far as payment and all is concerned. While you know if I look at an NFT marketplace or anywhere, I can actually remove those intermediaries so it becomes more efficient. Now the moment it says I removed intermediaries; I see cost savings. So, I don't have to pay, I don't have to shed. But is that really going to happen? I personally believe yes. But is it really convenient to the consumer? I don't have an answer.”

At the end, Taurani summarized his point of view about Web 3.0. “My point of view or my whole thought process at this point of time is as follows: I think for organizations and for professionals, we want to stay relevant. So, if we want to stay relevant, we need to understand it more deeply. And when I say that, it is not the skill set, it is the mindset. It is very easy to follow a passion. But to understand that, to actually make it meaningful for yourself is very, very important. And that's why, I personally believe that there would be a lot of value from Web 3.0.”

 

 

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ChatGPT: Writing on the wall for copywriters?

Today we begin a new series decoding the trends that are shaping the adtech space. In the first edition of TechTalks, we explore if A&M copywriters need to worry about the much talked-about ChatGPT

By Kanchan Srivastava | Feb 6, 2023 9:02 AM   |   7 min read

tech talk

A professor of Wharton School of Business recently sought to test what OpenAI's chatbot ChatGPT means for the prestigious school's business courses. He found out the chatbot successfully cleared the examination for Operations Management course with a B to B+ grade. 

Microsoft-backed ChatGPT, which is a natural language processing (NLP) tool trained on a massive amount of data and algorithms, has taken the world by surprise by generating human-like responses to a wide variety of inputs. 

The tool, which is barely three-months-old, has quickly become a valuable tool for many marketers, with some looking to replace human content producers with ChatGPT.

“ChatGPT is the first new tool in more than a decade that may really transform search and that could dent Google's market dominance,” AI researchers say. 

Seeing the boundless potential of the technology, Microsoft is not only investing heavily in OpenAI but also plans to integrate ChatGPT into its products like Bing. 

OpenAI has also announced a paid subscription service priced at $20 per month, which will give users faster response and priority access to upcoming features and improvements.

Alarmed with Microsoft's and OpenAI plans, Google CEO Sundar Pichai has also hinted that the company would roll out its own chatbot-LamDa-to upgrade its Search engine. 

 

Alarm bells for content creators?

Advertisers, who are already relying on various automation tools to create hundreds of digital advertisements in one go, have started off loading certain works like making first drafts of scripts, creative pitches and LinkedIn posts to ChatGPT.

Naturally, wordsmiths of the industry are concerned about the possible job losses in the future.

Josy Paul, Chairman at BBDO India, opines, “ChatGPT is knocking. One can open that door and embrace the possibilities, or view it as a threat. ChatGPT is here to generate ideas, offer solutions, and open up a world of access for everyone. It’s early days, and time will tell. But we can decide how we want to play with it. We are the DJs. It can make for a better experience.”

Human versus machine debate is eternal. Paul points out, “When computers were first introduced, people saw it as an enemy, but computers enhanced human capabilities. AI language models are good at creative work… may be more than factual analysis. When human intelligence (HI) and artificial intelligence (AI) combine, who knows, you could get infinite human intelligence (IHI).”

Vikash Chemjong, CCO, Cheil India finds chatGPT impressive, especially its “no-fuss personality”. 

“It’s amazing what ChatGPT can do. Some of the stories, poems, and articles are really, really good. And the scary bit is that it’s getting better every day. Plus, it doesn’t have an off day or a bad hair day, or food poisoning or post-breakup creative downward spiral or a midlife crisis or a sudden call of wanderlust or the weekend hangover,” he quipped in a wield remark over tantrum-throwing employees. 

He goes on, “It’ll surely come in handy to do the everyday work, at least groundwork. The grunt work. The classwork and homework [for my kids!]. Write emails. And also answer media queries. It’ll surely impact our industry.”

ChatGPT’s limitations have kept hopes alive in the industry. “The idea is to do something that the ChatGPT cannot – delve into the future. The new. Not done yet. Here’s to doing that!”

 

Can bots create catchy ads? 

Creativity is an innate ability that requires imagination, intuition, and emotional intelligence and cannot be replicated or duplicated by a machine. 

While chatbots are impressive, they still lack the ability to generate truly original ideas, concepts, and experiences. AI uses algorithms based on tonnes of old data created by humans. 

For instance, Google’s PoemPortraits generates poems from a single word using algorithms that drive its strength from scores of poems available on the net. Similarly, an artist robot "Ai-Da" draws and paints and ChatSonic can create images using algorithms fed by humans.

“ChatGPT, or any AI-chatbot created till date is a great asset for anyone looking for factual information or assistance. But will it be able to sell a holiday package to a customer, like an old-fashioned search engine, time will only tell, though the answer is a clear No today. It’s the same with copywriters and their contribution to the ad industry. Can it be a great way of augmenting the copies that they produce? Sure. But human cognition has proved now and again that it's irreplaceable and it still holds true.” - Gaurav Jhala, Assistant Vice President – SEO & Content, Performics India 

“Copywriting in the ad industry is much more than an algorithm,” quips Rohan Chincholi – Head, Digital Services - Havas Media Group India. 

Chincholi explains, “Copywriting is an understanding of the consumer, the context of communication, creativity and much more. This may not be necessarily a non-linear thought process for humans. But, for AI Chatbots, there is a sequence of learning that is coming into play there by impacting the quality of output.”

We need to do engagement testing: I am sure humans will outperform machines, he laughs. 

 

Can bots understand Brand Persona? 

The existing AI tools are still far away from understanding a brand persona and brand visual identity, say experts. 

Bharatesh Salian, Sr. VP - Marketing Science & CX, Kinnect, feels that the existing AI engines are intelligent but will still have to be trained to understand a brand persona, brand’s visual identity and the nuances of brand building and creativity.

“It can definitely learn from all the data points that have been fed in which powers the machine learning capabilities but it is still far away from understanding human behavior and emotions which a creative copywriter can bring to the table. For now, they can act as good assistants for content creators to take inspiration and make informed choices,” Salian quips. 

He noted that AI Chatbots can be effectively used to drive Conversational, Assisted and Personalized (CAP) Commerce Solutions. It will help in enhancing the customer buying journey by pre-empting and personalizing content basis relevance and user behaviour.

 

What about humor, nuances and empathy?

The content output usually generated by a typical chatbot isn’t anywhere close to the relatable, creative copies drafted by skilled copywriters, industry experts say. 

“ChatGPT is definitely a revolutionary introduction but even that lacks the human understanding of the cultural and social landscapes, which leads the writers to add a humorous word-play to the content, or to deliver it in ‘Hinglish’ rather than Hindi or English, among several other such nuances,” Shradha Agarwal, Co-Founder & CEO, Grapes: 

Agarwal noted further, “This is what elevates a string of words into an impactful piece of content. So, the rapid technological advancements might allow these chatbots to become a valuable resource for the copywriters in the near future, might even make some roles redundant, but in no way would they replace them completely.”

ChatGPT is proving to be an excellent thinking assistant, giving professionals the ability to effectively expand on their thoughts, innovation, and outlook, but it cannot be a replacement for the human mind, says Siddharth Bhansali Founder, Noesis.Tech, CTO Zoo Media. 

“The extent of imagination, curiosity, empathy, experience, and problem-solving acumen human beings hold is unmatchable by any technology,” Bhansali stated. 

According to Revathi Batola, Associate Director, Key Accounts, TheSmallBigIdea, AI chatbots’ biggest challenge is originality. “ChatGPT is programmed on a massive amount of data, which means it is churning out common, unremarkable content. This is where we can embrace the challenge of pushing beyond the predictable and offering remarkable content,” she remarks. 

AI programs do not eliminate jobs. They grow businesses and make jobs easier. It can find holes where things need to be fixed and suggest solutions. The idea therefore is to do something that the ChatGPT cannot – delve into the future. The new. Not done yet. Here’s to doing that!, suggests Chemjong. 




 



 

 

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Disney Star to launch metaverse platform in India: Report

The launch of 'Starverse' will reportedly coincide with IPL 2023

By exchange4media Staff | Feb 6, 2023 8:30 AM   |   1 min read

Disney

Media giant Disney is reportedly gearing up to launch its metaverse platform Starverse in India. The application has been readied for rollout after months of testing, according to a top Disney exec who confirmed the development to a news portal.

The launch of Starverse will reportedly take place around the time of IPL 2023. Disney conceptualised the platform with an aim to enhance its sports-viewing experience for fans. Starverse will enable an immersive 3D experience for fans of sports.

Sanjog Gupta, the Head of Sports, Star & Disney India, told the news portal that for the first time users will be allowed to enter the Starverse at scale.
Gupta also added that Starverse can be accessed on the phone web instead of a mobile application since the latter will restrict the experience to only those who have downloaded the app.

The Disney exec also said that the platform will be an "always-on" experience for users, with new features that will be added to Starverse throughout the year.
Reportedly, Disney has collaborated with multiple agencies to design the tech backend, 3D models and environment and gamification part of Starverse.

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