The Metaverse: One small step for tech, one giant leap for advertising?

28 January 2022

Alex Asif

It seems nowadays like you can’t go far in the adtech world without ending up down a metaverse-shaped rabbit hole. Facebook – or Meta, that is – is such a huge tech player that any announcement it makes (even one as nebulous in form as the metaverse announcement we got at the end of last October) is guaranteed to dominate the news cycle for a fairly lengthy period. 

Obviously, Meta will have its own vision of what the metaverse will look like, but for advertisers, this blank slate is already starting to be filled in. Although the metaverse was officially announced in October 2021, it has existed in various guises for over 15 years and adtech players can use the lessons learned from the forms it has taken to guide their marketing strategies in this brave, new world.

On The Origin Of Metaverse

The genesis of the metaverse came from gaming. Community has always been a huge part of the appeal of playing video games: entering a space and knowing that the people you are with are (mostly) there for the same reasons as you can provide you with a gateway to meeting new people, and expressing yourself in ways you never would in the “real” world. 

And this doesn’t extend simply to your behaviour. Games have long allowed players to customise their in-game avatars, allowing players to project an idealised vision of themselves. Of course, back in the early noughties, when gaming monetisation wasn’t as hot a topic as it is today, these cosmetics were free, and often designed and imported into games by players themselves.

Nowadays, a large amount of a game’s revenue comes after it has been purchased. In-game customisation is one of the biggest drivers of this. The best example of this is Epic’s wildly popular game, Fortnite, which has eschewed a more traditional “pay to win” post-release date monetisation formula in favour of focussing its revenue generation efforts on player customisation, which is where the game leaves the realm of simply being a third-person shooter and enters the metaverse. 

With built-in voice chat, functionality to let you team up with your friends, and even casual servers where you can just hang out with your friends – shooting optional – Fortnite has become more than just a game. It is now a go-to social space for over 350 million users per month, where players can customise their avatars to suit their wildest desires: they can even now wear Balenciagas in-game

And this is just how one game has adapted to become a social space. We haven’t even scratched the surface of how eCommerce allows brands to cross between the metaverse and the real-world, best exemplified by Samsung’s setting up a digital store in Decentraland, or how NFTs translate the collectibles craze into the online space, and digital experiences crafted by brands can be used to bring the metaverse to life.  With the range of options available, how can adtech players maximise their returns in this new, digital hangout space?

Because Maybe, The Metaverse Is Gonna Save Me…

Digital worlds already exist. They aren’t bringing any new, existential changes to an advertising formula that is tried and tested, and brands are already making moves to translate their products into the digital world. In the same way that we see billboards at football stadiums, ad formats can be ported into the metaversal worlds we spend our free time in, even becoming parts of the world that our avatars can interact with. 

But let’s not limit ourselves to a B2C context. Although hesitant to adopt the metaverse at a million miles an hour, B2B marketers have begun to dip their toes into the virtual reality pond. As a direct result of the pandemic, fully remote conferences, attended by individuals in avatar form, have become a reality. These show that the full range of options – speeches, breakout rooms, hangout spaces – available to marketers in the real world, can translate just as effectively into virtual spaces. There’s no longer any need for staid webinars and Zoom calls when fully realised ‘extended reality’ events are right at our fingertips.   

The huge potential of digital worlds for advertisers is clear. The next step is to take advantage of the options offered by advertising in the metaverse, and we are keeping our fingers firmly on the pulse of how the adtech sector will push the boundaries of the possibilities this offers.