Metaverse: A new terrain for brands to play digital marketing game?

Metaverse is expected to reboot digital advertising, offering extreme engagements between brands and consumers

e4m by Kanchan Srivastava
Published: Nov 2, 2021 8:49 AM  | 6 min read

In December 2016, car maker Mercedes launched a 360-degree video of its new SL model as a marketing strategy. To experience Merc's new sports car and take a test drive on California’s Pacific Coast Highway, all one needed was a smartphone, the internet, and a cardboard device. 

All without having to move an inch. The advertisement, based on virtual reality (VR), offered extreme engagements something like social simulation games like Second Life and The Sims 4 do. 

These are metaverses that are being dubbed as the ‘next big thing’ in the digital advertising world. 

“Metaverse is the biggest emerging technology that would play a major role in the future, taking consumers' experience to an entirely new level much more than what gaming does these days,” Andy Hood, Vice President, Technologies, WPP, had said at virtual conference e4M Screenage a fortnight ago. 

Over the years, many brands such as MTV, Coke, American Apparel and Dell, have created ‘metaverse advertising campaigns’ using much more experiential versions of the internet with deep embedding of VR components. Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and virtual concerts are some existing examples of the success of the metaverse. 

Facebook, Microsoft, Sony and Google are investing huge funds in the development of new hardware like AR glasses and VR headsets to utilize the full potential of metaverse. 

Yet, many of metaverse products will only be fully realized in the next 10-15 years, says Facebook, which has recently renamed its parent company to Meta to utilize, popularise and perhaps monetise the tech in the future. 

How will metaverse transform the ad experience?

Recently, Indian blockchain firm Polygon created the first NFT platform for cricket. It has immortalised Dinesh Karthik’s winning moment of March 2018 (in a match against Bangladesh) into an animated film ‘Six for the win’ that features that fateful last ball when India needed six runs to win, Karthik hits six, and the celebration in its aftermath. 

Last year, the National Football League (NFL) created a digital avtar of Vincent Lombardi, the late legendary coach of the NFL who ‘delivered’ a passionate speech from a stadium’s screen telling people to remain united during the Covid-19 pandemic. His real voice was cloned through Artificial Intelligence (AI).

These VR technologies have opened up new opportunities for the ad makers who seek to maximize the brands’ impact in the digital space especially in social media where most consumers are available these days. 

Shantanu Sirohi, COO, Interactive Avenues, a Reprise Network Company, says, “While I would not hazard a guess as to what the metaverse will look like, but brands and advertising agencies will be early adopters, using the cutting edge of technology to deliver rich, immersive brand experiences and engagements beyond the existing AR/VR-driven solutions.”

Interactive Avenues has been creating AR/VR & AI-driven solutions for its client partners for a while now and shall continue to innovate as the metaverse evolves, says Sirohi. 

Calling metaverse a “doppelganger universe” that brings the internet to life in 3D with “deepest conversation”, Aalap Desai, National Creative Director, Isobar India, says, “Just when we thought that we had run out of space in the world to advertise in, we got metaverse world to launch campaigns. Soon this will become the most prominent advertising platform we have ever seen.”

“Imagine a world where consumers can visit shops or attend concerts without leaving their homes. Plugin AI in there, and you will have personalized worlds for each and every consumer. With data collection, patterns will be defined, and the world will start predicting what we might want while we are roaming around in it,” explains Desai, who is already using metaverse for ads. 


No boundaries between physical and digital world

Metaverses are fascinating and have an untapped audience source. VR ads in metaverses can be a great way of raising revenues, ad giants have sensed it. 

Ad categories like porn, gaming, events, travel, luxury, and tech that shall take the lead in “dissolving the boundaries between physical and digital/virtual realms”, speculates Sirohi.

However, metaverse has no limits. For instance, if you have a music band, you can try gigs in a metaverse, release your album teaser in there, and invite your audience to a real-life launch.

You can open a cloth store in the metaverse, let the avatars try on clothes and allow them to place real-world orders.

Rahul Marwaha, Vice President, Media Activation, India at Essence, says, “We see an exponential growth in the usage of the metaverse, and an expanding network of developers and companies building an ecosystem around it. We are also seeing brands integrating the metaverse into online games, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. As technology devices increase in computing power, coupled with the adoption of 5G connectivity, integration of the metaverse into virtual activities will soon become the norm.”

Where does the idea of metaverse come from?

The idea follows from the cult science fiction novel ‘Snow Crash’ by Neal Stephenson published in 1992, where the phrase metaverse was first used. The novel is set in a dystopian world where governments have ceded power to private corporations and deals with many aspects of the modern world be it virtual reality, digital currency, etc. 

Stephenson’s book has found a god-like reverence among Silicon Valley leaders.


How will the metaverse really work?

The metaverse is being envisioned as a new world order really, where your services could be offered virtually in exchange for other virtual assets, or cryptocurrencies. On one level it does sound dystopic and most examples in popular fiction where the virtual and physical world have merged live up to that image.

According to Facebook’s own definition, the metaverse will let users hang out with people who are not in the same physical space.

Aniket Khare, Vice President - Business Development, Merkle Sokrati, has a different take though. 

“While it is too early to talk about its precise impact on advertising, we have seen a lot of hyper-contextualization of communication with the aid of technology and analytics. Deeper device-led immersive experiences could take this to the next level, but several aspects require clarity. Timeline for rollout is one. Measurement of outcomes and how all this ties up into the overall advertising ecosystem remain to be seen,” Khare notes. 


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