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The metaverse is leading the convergence of physical and virtual lives with activities such as games, concerts, art exhibitions and fashion shows. Picture: SUPPLIED/EBONY & IVORY
The metaverse is leading the convergence of physical and virtual lives with activities such as games, concerts, art exhibitions and fashion shows. Picture: SUPPLIED/EBONY & IVORY

Much talk has been centred on the metaverse, a digital world that coexists with our physical world, but it is not fully formed as a concept yet. 

The metaverse has similar features and attributes to our real world, but no physical manifestation. It is a place to live a second life, socialising and transacting through an avatar of our own creation. 

Like our universe, different worlds exist in the metaverse. Each “world” is created, managed and branded by a different corporate owner. Roblox, one of these virtual worlds, has 220-million users. Africa also has its first virtual world, Ubuntuland, where MTN purchased 144 plots for an undisclosed sum, helping to get the party started.

The metaverse and all its trimmings 

These virtual worlds are leading the convergence of physical and virtual lives with activities such as games, concerts, art exhibitions and fashion shows. The rise of crypto has had a significant impact on the metaverse, bringing commercial viability and the birth of the non-fungible token, a new digital asset class.

This has created an environment in the metaverse that goes beyond chatting and hanging out. You can now go to concerts such as the one hosted on the Fortnite platform, featuring US rap artist Travis Scott. The event drew more than 12.3-million concurrent guests, setting a new metaverse concert attendance record.

You can also buy accessories for your curated avatar with items advertised on digital outdoor hoardings. When it comes to these accessories, imagine the possibility of your favourite real world fashion retailer showing up with a virtual 3D store from where you can buy real merchandise delivered later to your real-world home. Companies such as Gucci, Calvin Klein and Nike are leading the way in this space. 

There is also a place for business in the metaverse. Bill Gates sees the metaverse as a benefactor to business efficiency, improving meetings, presentations, conferences and other engagements. Microsoft has already launched Mesh for Microsoft Teams under the enigmatic banner, “Here can be Anywhere”.

There are already exclusive metaverse media agencies creating the infrastructure to extend virtual brand presence, build avatar brand advocacy and create activations. Picture: SUPLLIED/EBONY & IVORY
There are already exclusive metaverse media agencies creating the infrastructure to extend virtual brand presence, build avatar brand advocacy and create activations. Picture: SUPLLIED/EBONY & IVORY

What about advertising? 

With real world commercial investment in a metaverse comes advertising and the search for branded interaction opportunities. The world’s leading agencies are already strategising how this might be developed and what the advertisement product might look like in a metaverse. 

“They [brands] have to be there in a different way than display advertising around content. They need to be much more participative, collaborative and understand the culture. Whether that will take the form of what we now think of as an advert is hard to say. I think it will be closer to brand activations and experiences,” says Tom Hostler, head of brand experience at Publicis Poke.

It is likely that brand communication in the metaverse will lean towards incentivised immersion, drawing on a gaming heritage. Recently Chipotle in the US opened a metaverse store on Roblox, encouraging visitation with a coupon for a free burrito redeemable in a real physical outlet but only after completing an in-game quest.

Notwithstanding a lack of certainty on the ideal metaverse advertisement, a new genre of metaverse-specific agencies are springing up, much like specialist social media agencies a while back. The metaverse goes beyond the creative industry; there are already exclusive metaverse media agencies creating the infrastructure to extend virtual brand presence, build avatar brand advocacy and create activations. 

It is suggested that global gaming and metaverse ad spend will almost treble from $47bn in 2021 to $131bn in 2025, according to Statistica. Ocean Outdoor, a UK media specialist, made headlines recently selling three digital billboards to metaverse “landowners” for more than $100,000. Working with Admix, they aim to offer advertisers a seamless presence across physical and digital worlds with consistent real-time communication. 

Going further, the question of ad verification and audience measurement is getting early attention in the virtual environment. Companies such as Bidstack and Anzu.io, which placed adverts in games and metaverses, are already working with Nielsen and comScore to bring viewability verification tools to the virtual space.

As the metaverse is developing, much work still needs to be done, and the big breakthroughs may still lie ahead. However, the optimists envision a strong growth trajectory for the metaverse, pointing out features and benefits that will forever change humankind.

This article was paid for by Ebony & Ivory. 

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