An enormous Leap for Advertising: How the Metaverse Could pioneer in the Next-Gen Brand Experience

The relationship between the metaverse and digital advertising is exactly the same as that of  smartphones and the internet. Surely, a lot of intelligent ideas existed pre-2007, but the iPhone launch initiated a fundamental shift in human behavior and the infinite tide of opportunities for new brands that came with it. Similarly, the quick evolution of the metaverse—a perpetual network of 3D virtual worlds expediting social connection—shows that the enthusiasm around this exciting, but still somewhat abstract sector is more than just tech buzz.

As Epic Games founder Tim Sweeney pointed out: The next three years are going to be crucial for all of the metaverse aspirant companies like Epic, Roblox, Microsoft and Facebook. It’s kind of a race to get to […] the presumed pioneer in setting the standards. This race is just as important for advertisers as it is for gaming and tech giants. As very quick adopters such as Nike and Gucci have pointed out, now is a pivotal time for sketching out the ad boundaries of this plucky new world—and the interoperability of platforms within it. I believe it’s gaming, above all others, that offers a gateway in.

 All Aboard the Gaming Curve

The metaverse can be a frustratingly arduous concept to pin down, but a simplified approach is to think of it as that the internet is being reinvented by the game developers. From Minecraft to Roblox, some of the industry’s most attractive gaming platforms already exist on the periphery of the metaverse, with huge international networks, elements such as VR interfaces, digital ownerships and avatars that represent real people. And so, it’s no surprise that they have been leading the charge when it comes to shaping the metaverse as a new frontier of virtual experience.

If advertisers want a head start on widespread metaverse inventory as it’s being evolved, they only need to follow the trail of these gaming pioneers. ‘Fortnite’ with more than 350 million monthly active users and 141 million monthly active users on ‘Minecraft’, along with a clear skew toward Generation ‘Z’ audiences, the video gaming space has an unparalleled potential for marketers.

Yet, building successful brand collaborations in metaverse gaming is going to be far from straightforward. Within such mesmerizing environments, the potential for advertising to become disruptive and rejected by consumers is pretty huge. Just look at the anger that broke out over NBA 2K19’s non-skippable ads, active across several platforms, in 2019.

A New Caliber of User Experience

If companies are to play a credible role in the metaverse, a new approach will be required that prioritizes innovation and the user experience above anything else. If the metaverse is, the internet being evolved by game developers, then advertisers will need to think like game developers as well if they are to create genuinely captivating advertising experiences that offer value to the audiences.

The evolution of advertising in gaming is still at a very early stage. But already, there are some leading examples that offer a vision of how ads would look and feel in the metaverse. Take Air Jordan’s  collaboration with Fortnite, where players were able to compete in tournaments to collect the brand’s XI Cool Grey sneakers, test out their skills and techniques on virtual basketball courts, view branded videos and explore the virtual Air Jordan museum. It’s this ambitious and immersive proposition to advertising that will likely have the greatest influence within metaverse environments.

Several brands are hardly thinking about advertising in gaming, let alone the metaverse, so getting ready for this next-gen brand experience will require a great amount of shift in strategy. As an industry, brands will have to become much courageous and willing to experiment with new approaches that push the innovative envelope. Creative processes and brand storytelling needs to become much more dynamic and flexible to match such a quick-moving and multidimensional environment.

 Finding The Right Audiences

Advertisers will also need to embrace very different strategies for targeting pertinent viewers in the metaverse. Traditional behavior-based targeting is already struggling because of the end of the third-party cookie. But within the quick-moving metaverse, targeting someone based on their past behavior will make even less sense. Instead, advertisers will need to find ways to discover the right audiences based on the content that they are interacting within their mindset at that very moment. And this is where contextual targeting can play a very important role.

With contextual advertising, messages can reverberate with the environment itself and, when combined with captivating innovations and immersive gaming-style experiences, these advertisements could deliver the kind of value that consumers demand from brands. For example, imagine a virtual football game, completely filled with digital billboards and banners around the arena. A sports apparel brand could create banners that players are actually allowed to enter and access virtual stores with fitting rooms, where a player’s avatar could try on newly-launched sportswear.

In the future, contextual AI will be crucial for scanning live environments and serving advertisements that perfectly match any experience or layout within the metaverse. Advertisers should consider whether they or their partners have the required skills to tap into these opportunities.

The digital advertising landscape is undergoing enormous change, but the emerging metaverse is a cue for companies to reach further. With the arrival of privacy-first advertising, marketers can use the metaverse to flex their innovative muscles in an alluring new space, on the mantle of fluid and compelling advertisement experiences that match the gaming universe’s pioneering spirit. With metaverse real estate expanding, the time to act is now.