By Dana Tahir, General Manager, Red Havas
Communicators have had a busy few years. Disruption, adapting to everything that has changed, and the resulting resilience it builds – are second nature to us. Really, think about it – we’ve evolved over the duration of the (ongoing) COVID-19 pandemic. Before that, we were already experiencing the fourth industrial revolution – and the notion that artificial intelligence will have a profound impact on how we live our lives and robots will take all our jobs away.
Prior to that, it was the social commerce boom, the global economic downturn and the sub-prime crisis, the recession following the 9/11 attacks, the dot-com bubble, the Gulf War, and so on. You get the picture. Every major event in history or each gradual evolution caused by technology and how we interact with it, has had an impact on our world and how we communicate. So as we witness the changes brought about by the metaverse, we are both curious about the opportunity it represents and the extent of true change it will bring about.
First things first, the metaverse was always here – it became mainstream because Facebook rebranded to Meta. But the underlying technology that it is built on, has existed for years. In essence, the metaverse and its experiences are built on a gaming infrastructure that has evolved over the decades. It’s no surprise then that major tech players like Microsoft, Amazon, and Meta have been making acquisitions in the gaming industry for years – from Microsoft acquiring Minecraft and Amazon’s acquisition of Twitch. More recently, we’ve seen brands activating with concerts, customer experiences, exclusive NFT, and collection drops in metaverse worlds like Decentraland and Sandbox.
Havas Group’s newest Prosumer study titled ‘Metaverse: The New Age of Experience’, which surveyed nearly 15,000 men and women aged 18 years and older, indicated that 73% of the mainstream have heard about the metaverse. Emerging markets and countries with younger populations, such as the United Arab Emirates, are more attuned to this new tech frontier and its potential. We see, for instance, that while 95% or more are familiar with the metaverse in the UAE, that figure drops to just 60% in Japan (median age 48.4) and 73% in the Czech Republic (43.2).
The report cites that there is an emerging divide, between generations in their understanding of the metaverse. Also, respondents from emerging markets (like Brazil, China, and India) are likely to see the metaverse as a new place to live – they would be willing to wear a headset for several hours a day to enjoy the full possibilities of the metaverse.
Over 50% of all users surveyed admit to spending time with their real-life friends on the metaverse through gaming platforms. The metaverse also represents an opportunity to experiment with one’s identity via avatars and other means, but it is also a place where people can feel freer to express themselves.
There is also an emerging need to regulate the metaverse, in line with evolving norms around Web3, a future of the internet built on decentralization and monetization through the blockchain. In addition to this, bad behaviors such as fraud, cyber crime, data breach, and even sexual harassment and bullying need to be addressed with standard regulations for and beyond the metaverse. Brands also need to identify ways to measure the impact of their activations on the metaverse, because the subscriber base and currencies used in different worlds within the metaverse are specific to the worlds. Users are already familiar with skins, metaverse-exclusive collections, and digital clothing for their online avatars, NFTs being dropped, and live events on the metaverse. These forms of monetization and customer experiences are just the tip of the iceberg, with the potential to create alternate revenue streams being estimated in the billions of dollars.
I am personally excited at the prospect of hosting brand experiences in the metaverse, launching new collections, securing product placements in the metaverse, and potentially gifting NFTs to influencers. The possibilities are endless, with brands already creating their own ‘worlds’ or buying plots of land on worlds like Decentraland or Sandbox. Can you imagine what comes next?
It’s a wonderful world that is waiting to unfold upon us, and the only conclusion I can draw confidently is that brands will lean on their communications and image management partners, to bring their presence to life on the metaverse. And when brands are ready to go, PR will be the propellor fuel on this exciting journey – taking them bravely into a future that already exists in a parallel reality!