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21 January 2022
How agencies are pitching a metaverse entry to clients
It’s the future of the internet, it’s a frothy investment market, it’s a tussle over the very fabric of how we humans will interact with each other, or it’s a game: the metaverse is, apparently, all around – here’s what agencies are pitching.
Or rather, two recent reports from major holding groups – Publicis’ Starcom and WPP’s Wunderman Thompson – reflect the shape of advice to come.
The truth is that this thing, the metaverse, doesn’t yet exist.
And what’s worse is that the hype wave has caught all of the VC flotsam and mixed it into this vague, though futuristic thing known as Web 3.0. It includes crypto, but also the metaverse.
So, bottom line, someone is winning from the confusion; opaque markets are good at that. For instance, Wunderman Thompson rallies 15 different experts to define the thing.
Still, there’s some seriousness to be found. The company FKA Facebook is now pursuing Meta ambitions and spending serious money to do so. Microsoft just spent $68 billion on Activision Blizzard with an eye on the metaverse.
In effect, all this means that little is certain other than the idea that digital services and experiences will become even more important to people’s physical lives.
There are two main schools of thought with overlaps. One thinks of the metaverse as an internet that feels like a videogame, where the internet becomes a virtual realm.
The other, sees the metaverse as fundamentally about digital identity, and therefore the task is to build the back-end systems that allow a user to switch between virtual spaces through one, consistent digital identity. In this case, we might want to think about this as Facebook or Google account log-ins, but richer, and even more consequential.
What to do about it
It’s rare that tech actually engages with the metaphysical aspects of philosophy – its loose relationship with ethics is well known – but the metaverse is currently at this a priori point in which thinking about it means thinking about ourselves, the nature of reality, the nature of control. But you came for guidance and there is some guidance available to be, cautiously, followed.
Starcom is honest about the theoretical phase that this technology is in and highlights four tensions, which it is also exploring in a podcast series to accompany the report.
Social vs. Solo: how the metaverse smashes 1st and 3rd spaces together.
Truth vs. Design: how the metaverse can tell you anything you want to hear.
Access vs. Ownership: how in metaverse spaces, actions as well as objects can be owned.
Protection vs. Freedom: how the metaverse is organic but needs regulation.
Wunderman Thompson, meanwhile, is a report based on the ways in which business is being done, whether through virtual property or in advanced remote work. It also settles on five important lessons for brands:
Brands need to be part of digital third spaces – the places where people increasingly socialise, work, and shop.
Values and ethics will still matter in the virtual world.
The level of integration between digital and physical will be high; virtual events will have physical consequences and vice versa.
There are two main ways to be involved as a brand: help develop the infrastructure, the tools that will enable metaversal experiences, or perfecting the end user experience.
No one owns the metaverse, even if companies are trying to. The internet works because nobody owns it and if the metaverse is going to fulfil its potential, brands will need to collaborate rather than colonise their patches of ‘verse.