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It seems pretty clear that traditional advertising isn’t going to work in whatever the metaverse will turn out to be — after all, what “effective advertising” means has had to change with every iteration of the online and digital world.
In Web 3, the new iteration of the web, based on the blockchain, the creators are in control, not the platform — and they control the monetization of their content too. In fact, Web 3 offers so many ways for creators to own, control, and make money from their content that they won’t be prioritizing traditional disruptive advertising. But brands still have a place in Web3, as long as they add value to the experience through product placement or giveaways, or create new ways to interact.
What will that look like? To discuss the potential issues, obstacles, and opportunities that Web3 and metaverse might offer up, Dean Takahashi, lead writer at GamesBeat, was joined by a panel of industry experts, including Samuel Huber, founder and CEO at Admix; Michael Liu, SVP, head of innovation, at Carat; and Doug Rosen, SVP, strategy, business development and digital products at Nickelodeon/ViacomCBS.
Making advertising more creative
Right now, we’re advancing steadily from Web 2 to Web 3, and the pay-to-earn game category, anchored by blockchain and peer-to-peer transactions, is growing even now. Because the data lives on the blockchain, anyone can access and monetize that data, Huber said.
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“These new games create a new creator economy,” Huber said. “For the first time, it’s not just the big corporation that benefits from the growth of the platform, but also the end users, if they invest at the right time.”
The metaverse platforms we have, like Roblox, show how much more creative advertising can get than traditional web advertising, or even advertising in games, where the publisher of the game controls most of the experience. Brands will still have to make sure they’re careful about choosing the right arenas and making sure they’re careful about where they associate their brand and their experience. But what’s interesting is that they also get to shape the content themselves.
“They can build their own experience, instead of just advertising in someone else’s experience like they would in Web 2,” Huber said. “They could build Nike Land, for example, the Roblox experience. But Adidas, with the Adiverse in the Sandbox, gets to really shape the way they want their experience. To some extent there is a lot more control for brands in the metaverse, because they can build the experience.”
Creators as the backbone of the metaverse
What we’re seeing is a lot of projects being open-minded to giving people more control over the assets they own, Liu said.
“The interesting thing about Web 3 in general is bringing more value and scarcity and control over digital assets, which was not something that could be done before this,” he said. “From a brand perspective you can play into that, or you can try to avoid that, but I think the best way is to experiment on both sides and see what people can do, especially your most loyal fans. What they can do to help elevate your brand or help shapeshift it in this new environment.”
Rosen agreed, saying “The challenge on the IP holder side, it’s a balance. You have to lean into the idea of giving up control to your customers, to fans, to people who love your shows and characters. At the same time there’s the reality of what it means to be a big media company. There’s only some degree to which we’ll be able to do it. But I think you can accomplish both goals.”
These platforms are the perfect place for a brand to allow users to play and create with content and your characters and your IP, and feel like they have a role in what they’re doing, creating what might feel like a bespoke experience, while keeping a balance by hanging on to ownership.
Takahashi pointed to the example of Forever 21 offering Roblox users the blocks to build their own custom, user-generated stores. Users operated the store and competed with each other to see who’s the most popular.
“It’s almost like a retail simulation game, as opposed to just, here’s my store,” he said. “I thought that was something people would come back to more than once, just because it’s a fun experience.”
Going beyond traditional advertising
By giving that kind of ownership, and also offering the ability to interact, advertisers in the metaverse are taking that interaction to the next level.
“It’s not just about pushing your message across to people and eventually, by showing them an ad enough, they’ll click on it and buy the product,” Huber said. “You can change the way that those interactions work and try to take the user on a journey with you about what your brand stands for.”
Liu agreed, saying it’s the most engaging way to tell stories.
“What’s exciting about that is trying to figure out, what’s your brand’s story in this new world?” he said. “Whether you want to show how the product is made, how the product is used, different aspects of that product, or just the brand itself, this is the most leaned in way to do that right now.”
With so many different components of Web3, so many virtual experiences styled as metaverses, NFTs, and tokens, how do you approach this new world, and build the right strategy for it?
“Right now there’s really no right approach for something so new. You need to approach it in a similar fashion to other environments, like putting your brand on social early on in 2005-2010,” Liu said. “You want to be able to develop a strategy first and ask the questions about why you want to be in that space. I believe brands should approach with optimistic caution and open expectations.”
It means eliminating stifling corporate barriers, thinking about how your brand translates into this new space, whether you have easily transportable brand benefits, like a product or service, or harder nuts to crack, like food and beverage.
“You need to dig into your brand purpose and ethos and the characteristics of your brand, he added. “How do we exemplify our brand into these areas? Whether it’s a digital asset like an NFT, or it’s creating our own space, our own world in a metaverse project. But ultimately it should be fun. You’re manifesting your brand in a completely new environment. How often does that happen, to be able to have that opportunity? It should be something where the brand is playful with itself.”
There isn’t often an ROI for experimentation, Rosen said, but you need to experiment and try and play and give your users the ability to do the same.
“We try to stay true to that, making it messy and fun and creative,” he said. “It’s not always going to be perfect, and that’s actually the beauty of these experiences. I think it’s perfect for a kid-focused brand to think about it in that way.”
“The ad interruptive model is not going to work here,” Liu added. “Also, why would you do that when you have this open world in front of you, where you can have limitless ideas to apply your brand in certain scenarios? Whether you want to control it or give it away and let people play with your brand in different ways. It’s just such a new space, to try to put something into this that was an old legacy model of doing it is just a disservice.”
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