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Insights

Meta About META

There is change in the air and it’s pushing us towards new frontiers - in real and virtual worlds. COP26 is still in motion with positive acceleration made this week in addressing green finance, tackling deforestation and methane gas emissions, although challenges still remain in terms of giving ourselves an above 60% chance of success in keeping global temperature change below 1.5 degrees C by 2030. Change is also afoot in the internet, with the news last week of Facebook’s, rebranding to Meta Platforms - Meta for short - as a very real statement of intent for the company’s focus on building out the metaverse. This week’s 52INSIGHTS builds on last week’s theme of MEGA and META by introducing you to the new frontier of the internet. Welcome to the metaverse!

A 3-D INTERNET? THAT’S SO META

Think of the metaverse as a 3-D internet space rather than a 2-D space. The 3-D internet is visual-first, and focused on graphic elements - instead of words. Put simply, it visually replicates real life, plus it’s incredibly social. You connect organically with other people that share your interests and consume the same services that you do.

Instead of being on a computer, in the metaverse you might use a headset to enter into a virtual world connecting lots of digital environments. This virtual world could be used for practically anything - work, play, concerts, cinema trips - or just hanging out. You’ll show up as your own 3D avatar - a representation of yourself - as you move through it.
The expansion of the metaverse is still in its infancy, with Meta (Facebook) declaring that “it won’t be built overnight by one company.” While the exact definition of it is still being debated, there is agreement on the 3 core fundamentals of the metaverse as the successor to the mobile internet:

  1. PRESENCE: Feeling of actually being in a virtual space, with virtual others.
  2. INTEROPERABILITY: being able to seamlessly travel between virtual space with the same virtual assets, such as avatars and digital items.
  3. STANDARDISATION: As with all mass-media technologies - from the printing press to text messaging - common technological standards are essential for widespread adoption. International Orgs such as ‘Open Metaverse Interoperability Group’ will define these standards. If the metaverse does become the successor of the internet as we know it, things such as who builds it, and how are extremely important.

“The metaverse will be the successor to the mobile internet, we’ll be able to feel present – like we’re right there with people no matter how far apart we actually are.”
Mark Zuckerberg, Co-Founder of Meta Platforms & Controlling Shareholder

BIG PLAYERS IN THE METAVERSE

As an integrated ecosystem, we can visualise the metaverse having seven layers. The outer consumer-facing layer of ‘Experience’ (i.e. what you actually do/see when connected) to the inner layer of ‘Infrastructure’ (i.e. powering the engine). Across each layer there are countless speciality digital and technology companies, but we see three or four players as leaders of the pack given their presence across these layers. Those are Meta Platforms, Unity, Epic Games (who own Fortnite) and Roblox. If you haven’t heard of them before now, you surely will as we head further into the business of the metaverse!

Let’s take Roblox as an example, a company with a market evaluation of nearly $42 billion when launched on the NYSE on March 10th 2021. Roblox provides a metaverse platform which hosts 40 million games (like Adopt Me, Jailbird and so many more here). It also has an advertising platform that can be used to promote and launch new games in this ecosystem, and it has its own 3D engine and marketplace that creators can use to share assets and code with each other.

Connection and collaboration is a key factor in successfully embracing the metaverse for business. Roblox doesn’t make games by itself, they leave that to their creators. But it uses the platform as a place to host online live concerts, such as Lil Nas X’s concert that reached an astounding 33 million people on Roblox. In terms of making money, Roblox gets most of their revenue from sales of Robux, which they split with their creators. Looking to the future, it is likely to make more money from events in partnership with brands.

BRANDS IN THE METAVERSE

“Marketers like to be where people are. Where there is set to be new traffic is certainly a place that marketers need to be paying attention to. I believe the shift we’re seeing to the metaverse is going to be one of the largest shifts we’ve seen in a long time.… We are where we were with social media 17,18 years ago.”- Lindsey McInerney, global head of technology and innovation at Anheuser-Busch InBev

As a brand you are likely thinking, where can I start? Our recommendation is to consider what you do in the real world in terms of engaging consumers.Then consider how you could recreate or expand on these experiences in a virtual or hybrid world.

A great example, led by McInerney, is Stella Artois’s partnership with Zed Run, an online platform powered by blockchain technology. Using this technology they built a virtual horse-racing experience, a next-gen take on the brands legacy association with IRL horse racing. This was brought to life virtually using the brand’s fabulous visual aesthetic world ‘The Artois Life’ (a testament to how lush and visually stunning the virtual world can look while still channelling the brand’s look, feel and comms platform.)

Warner Brother Picture’s summer launch of In The Heights in on Roblox is another fab, innovative example of meta-technology. This was a film premiere event that saw fans come together on Roblox to watch the movie launch, enjoy a Q&A with cast members, and participate in the largest ever virtual flash mob! This was all hosted with the backdrop of The Heights neighbourhood throughout. Gucci, always the digital pioneer, has also experimented on Roblox bringing users an immersive experience via The Gucci Gardens, which debuted for 14 days in May. Artistic, mannequin-like avatars can walk around a series of themed rooms, interacting and trying on digital clothing and branded accessories available for purchase. This taps into the evolving trend for collecting alternative assets or limited-edition digital items (NFTs).

BRAND TAKEOUTS

  • It’s time to start thinking 3-D above 2-D: The 2-D internet is rooted in written documents and graphics. The 3-D internet is rooted in 3-D moving graphics, where you show up alongside others in-real-time. How can you start to think and act more 3-D than 2-D?
  • Lean into new creator communities: while many of the virtual worlds have advertising platforms, think how you can show up leaning into the creator community to develop new experiences beyond advertising.
  • The metaverse is here and it’s only going to get bigger: While still in its infancy, this is the time to start experimenting in how you show up within immersive environments - whether it is offering digital collectables (NFTs), new immersive experiences or launching new products/ services. Start small now so you’re ready to scale in time.