Waiting for the metaverse? The revolution is already here

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For those who celebrate Super Bowl ads more than the actual game, the last one could forever be known as the Metaverse Bowl.

Facebook and Miller both ran ads featuring and praising the metaverse, while Matthew McConaughey starred in a Salesforce ad taking a dig at the metaverse. The word itself is everywhere, and Facebook has draped itself in it with its new name, Meta.

Superbowl 2022 and the metaverse

But as these “meta” marketing messages roll out to varying degrees of success, there seems to be a noticeable, metaverse-shaped blind spot in today’s marketing: the core experiential technologies of the metaverse promise are already here. Augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and other cross-reality experiences are being widely enjoyed by audiences and exploited by savvy marketers looking to create highly engaging executions — ones that significantly outperform traditional advertising in dwell time and are ripe for viral sharing.

Across the digital ecosystem, new tools and enthusiasts are powering a revolution, and creators aren’t waiting for the delivery of any single “metaverse”. Consumers are using — and even creating their own — AR and VR experiences, and are sharing their journeys on the largest social platforms like Facebook, TikTok, and Snap, every day.

On Snap alone, over 250,000 creators have built millions of AR experiences that reach over 200 million Snapchat users daily. Facebook’s Spark AR community hosts millions of creations, and prompts users with themed contests that attract thousands of entrants building their own cross-reality effects. TikTok’s rollout of their effect authoring environment is still a bit more exclusive, but their AR Lens gallery has content created by brands as diverse as Pepsi, Listerine, Huawei Technologies and Call of Duty.

As brands hesitate, users have rushed into the new medium to express their brand affinity, creating content themselves if need be. You can see unsanctioned, fan-made AR creations that let you become Star Wars’ Emperor Palpatine, or find out which Harry Potter wizard you are, or which Disney character you are. (The last was an instant phenomenon, drawing numerous celebrities to share their results to social media, including Disney star Josh Gad, the voice of Olaf in Frozen, and Zelda Williams, who ironically matched with Aladdin’s Genie, voiced by her father, Robin Williams.)

Meanwhile, tools are allowing regular users to create and explore 3D content, with the secret weapon being the modern smartphone, which is now a gateway for 3D content creation — the building block of any metaverse. Now anyone can scan a real-world scene or object in 3D, which has led to its own new medium of user-generated content. For example, sharing one’s bedroom in 3D became a trend on TikTok, and people are using 3D site Sketchfab to share people and places captured in 3D. 

As you can see, there are exciting applications that can extend your marketing and brand creatively today without having to wait for a single, corporate-controlled “metaverse” to materialize. To start today with AR/VR, this is what you need to do:

  • Identify what great extension of your product/property/solution would work well in this environment. Obviously entertainment companies have a huge aperture on bringing their properties to life through AR/VR/XR, but brands in different industries can bring their brand promise or product features to life to extend their messages to this audience.
  • Partner with influencers, communities, makers or agencies who know this space to bring the idea to life. It’s tough going it alone, especially in a new environment. And while companies have a host of marketing expertise, it doesn’t always translate to AR/VR/XR. By partnering with experts, you’ll create a better experience for devotees quicker and with fewer false starts.
  • Consider providing the creative XR community with 3D assets to work with to share your story in the way you want it told. This is a strategy that video game companies use often. As demonstrated above, consumers use and remix your content without your consent or help. By providing the right type of content for them to play with, you have some degree of control, earn goodwill by working directly with creators, and ensure your assets are being used in a sea of other options.
  • Incorporate it in your marketing. It’s not enough to merely participate in the AR/VR/XR space, you should extend it through your advertising initiatives. This is what NBCUniversal did for its AR shop, and Purina did for its cat-themed AR campaign. The community will respect and appreciate that you are calling attention to their efforts and passions, and you get the imprint of cool by demonstrating you are participating in the next generation of entertainment. They also outperformed regular ads. 360-VR ads performed 15-20x better than standard ad units by a significant margin.

There is no doubt that the “metaverse” will continue to dominate conversations — in both marketing and culture — for years. But there’s no need to sit on the sidelines as the new paradigm of 3D or “spatial” communication emerges; it’s already here and consumers are engaged and creating. Get active in AR/VR/XR today to entertain your audiences and keep your brand top-of-mind for the influencers driving the next revolution in creativity. 

Jason Steinberg is managing partner of Pretty Big Monster.

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