As marketers try out new formats, learn the ecosystem and forge partnerships, experience shows there’s reason to tread carefully, writes Lisa Utzschneider, the chief executive officer at Integral Ad Science..
Imagine your brand in the metaverse – a virtual world where avatars of real people connect, play, work, communicate and socialize, a playground for brands to push boundaries with immersive, digital storytelling. It’s one of the most popular conversations among marketers as we kick off 2022 and ripe for experimentation. This year will see brands test their plans for the metaverse. From gaming to social networks and beyond, there’s a rush to capture a slice of what Bloomberg Intelligence calculates to be a nearly $800bn total market opportunity by 2024.
In some ways, weighing in on what the metaverse will grow to be is akin to discussing the potential of the internet in the 1970s or social media in the early 2000s. While I don’t have a crystal ball, what I appreciate most about the tech industry is a willingness to experiment and test limits.
It’s early days and uncharted territory, but some aspects of the metaverse will be familiar to marketers. After all, brands still want to engage customers in meaningful ways, appear next to contextually relevant content, measure their campaign ROI and maximize the creative potential of any platform. With that in mind, here are a few ways to think about marketing and the metaverse.
New audiences, powerful connections
Try to recall your early experiences with ads on Facebook or even TikTok. Now think of how you use these platforms today, maybe within the last few minutes. The metaverse presents new opportunities for brands to connect with audiences, including younger generations, and brings with it the promise of new formats too.
Many brands will need to prepare for a steep learning curve: new technology, formats and specs, ways to measure engagement – and maybe even some new advertising acronyms. In the metaverse, success will require a willingness to learn and understand new consumer behavior, to bring something meaningful to it and to enhance the experience. Some savvy marketers are already leaning into best practices gleaned from years of campaigns across social, video and gaming environments.
Consider how Verizon brought a Super Bowl stadium experience to Fortnite, offering players the chance to meet avatars of NFL players. When brands focus on authentic and rewarding experiences, that’s a recipe for lasting connections with customers. Think first about the value add and becoming a genuine part of the environment to not only be noticed by new audiences, but possibly change brand perception among a much-valued cohort.
The metaverse in context
With immersive AR and VR driven experiences comes an even more pressing need to be relevant. Digital ad targeting has grown increasingly sophisticated and privacy focused – moving well beyond the limits of audience targeting. In fact, there’s quite a lot of data to show that contextually targeted ads – aligning with the surrounding content instead of the user – increases ad memorability.
Looking ahead, brands have a significant opportunity to pivot to advertising in environments that are contextually relevant and use that as a proxy, instead of audience data, which could be especially relevant in the metaverse. With the impending deprecation of third-party cookies, this could be a fresh start to build on contextual tools for the metaverse and privacy-forward alternatives to audience data.
Mapping and measuring media quality
For advertisers, the future of the metaverse may mean richer data to deliver more sophisticated and predictive insights into consumer behavior and decision-making, going well beyond traditional targeting methodologies. Built on the back of advanced technology, the metaverse and these new insights could offer unique advertising opportunities, which means media quality and measurement will need to evolve with it too.
The metaverse presents an array of new content types that blend the digital and physical worlds into an immersive experience, which our industry is just beginning to explore. As marketers try out new formats, learn the ecosystem and forge partnerships, experience shows there’s reason to tread carefully. Where consumers go, ad dollars shortly follow and often bad actors aren’t far behind. Brand safety and ad fraud risks may loom large in these digital and user-generated environments.
Additionally, while consumers celebrate more controls to create, shape and interact within these virtual environments, the more aware brands will need to be of where their ads appear – or risk running next to questionable content. This will require the entire industry to think critically about media quality and measurement that suits the medium. As the metaverse takes shape, brands will need technology to avoid risks and navigate towards suitable environments where they safely connect with their consumers.
While daily life amid the metaverse is still to come, it’s not as far away as some might think. The use of both VR and AR has grown amid the pandemic and we can expect to see more progress with this technology in the year ahead. The lines between in-person and metaverse experiences will blur, with people increasing time spent in virtual environments. As with any new channel or platform, advertisers will demand measurement to invest with confidence.
This article was first published on The Drum.