A year ago, the metaverse was a hot topic for marketers, but the blush is very much off the rose. In this opinion piece, Omri Argaman, Chief Marketing Officer of the mobile user acquisition platform Zoomd, discusses why it may be even less of a force than you think, and why gaming is currently the best alternative.
When the company formerly known as TheFacebook rebranded as Meta and announced its push to build the metaverse in late 2021, marketers jumped in headfirst, launching early metaverse implementations on Sandbox, Decentraland, Roblox and Fortnite even as Meta said the metaverse would take 10 years to build.
Probably because they wanted to leverage the ‘first-mover advantage,’ but that space already belongs to either Gucci or Nike, when it comes to each company’s respective implementations on Roblox. The rest of the marketers are just followers establishing something on technology platforms with limited utility, and even fewer visitors, after the initial PR push.
Where are the users? Not in the metaverse
Two of the leading metaverse and web3 platforms are Sandbox and Decentraland. According to data aggregator DappRadar, at the time it analyzed user data in October 2022, Decentraland had 38 active users in the previous 24 hours and Sandbox had 522 active users during the same time period.
By contrast, with 57.8 million active users as of September 2022, Roblox is an active community, but largely not one that’s accessible to brands. Sixty-seven percent of Roblox’s users are under 16, and the service doesn’t allow advertising to those under 13; only 14% are older than 25, making it mostly ineffective as a marketing platform.
A lot changes in 10 years – maybe it will here too
Today, when one thinks of social media, the platforms that come to mind are Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and a few others. But social media platforms existed well before Mark Zuckerberg launched TheFacebook in 2004. Social networking pioneer SixDegrees.com was founded in 1997, followed by Friendster (founded in 2002) and then MySpace and Hi5 (founded in 2003).
With Google’s greater than 90% market share, it’s easy to forget that the company’s offering was not the first Internet search solution. Before Google launched in 1998, early Internet users searched with W3Catalog (founded in 1993), and later Yahoo! (which started as a web
directory), WebCrawler and Lycos (founded in 1994). In 1995, three years before the debut of Google, Yahoo! Search, LookSmart and Altavista launched. The ad models for these services were nascent, to the extent they existed at all. Google launched its AdWords product in 2003, and Yahoo!, upon its purchase of Overture in that same year, also became a player in search advertising.
As proven by Google and Facebook, the first version of a new technology usually does not dominate the market as it matures. Therefore, I wouldn’t invest in developing marketing applications on platforms that aren’t likely to dominate the market in the future.
Even for marketers not expecting conversions or a return on their metaverse marketing investment, what is the branding value of a marketing program with an ephemeral presence, and probably a very small audience, when considering costs and resources?
Gaming, a right-now metaverse alternative
Unfortunately, there is a herd mentality in marketing. If a competitor is advertising in the metaverse, then there will be pressure to also advertise in the metaverse, no matter what the data says.
For companies under such pressure, running in-game advertising in online games relevant to your target audience is a worthy option. It’s the closest, currently available experience to the metaverse, and if it’s relevant to a brand’s users, then it should be able to show this investment achieved some positive, precise KPIs beyond the fuzzy ones marketers turn to in order to justify dabbling in some emerging platforms.
Zoomd has seen success with in-game advertising in our work with Samsung. The company turned to in-game advertising to launch a new model targeting Gen Z in Europe. Marketing a mobile phone intended for game playing to a demographic group with a high percentage of game players generated strong results, as one would expect. The campaign achieved 94% viewability. The exposed audience showed brand recognition 21% higher than baseline campaigns. Two-thirds of the surveyed audience confirmed they had seen a Samsung ad for the marketed phone.
Beyond in-game ads, marketers targeting users under 18 are succeeding by integrating ads into gaming platforms like Fortnite, Roblox, and Microsoft-owned Minecraft. Depending on the product or service and target audience, there are lots of opportunities on these gaming platforms, particularly to engage with consumers under 18.
An option beyond advertising on these platforms is to actually create a game around your brand. That’s what Coca-Cola recently did for Fanta with Fanta Sip and Ride, a game where players try to keep a glass of Fanta Orange from spilling as it races on a roller coaster track.
In questionable economic times, with the leading ad technology platforms laying off thousands, now is not the time to invest in marketing which delivers so little value today in the hope that there might be a payoff in the 2030s.
As someone who has been working in digital marketing since 2007, I’m not one to bet against Mark Zuckerberg. That’s why I believe in his vision of the metaverse and look forward to the possibility of advertising in the metaverse in the future. But today, I’m more comfortable running client campaigns on Facebook or Instagram, both of which are capable of delivering on actual campaign KPIs.