Hey ad industry: What the heck is a metaverse?

November 26, 2023


Hey ad industry: What the heck is a metaverse?

A functional definition of “Metaverse” for advertising and branding


While many talk about the Metaverse and are building businesses around it, there is no common agreement on what constitutes a metaverse.  The popular view of metaverse is a virtual reality and/or augmented reality in which users “jack in” and interactive via goggles or other glasses. Many online gaming platforms would argue that massive multiplayer online(MMO) gaming platforms are each metaverses including League of Legends, Fortnite and World of Warcraft; Roblox, Minecraft and other similar platforms are also considered as metaverses by many. Within the advertising community, we embrace all these views and are trying to figure out how to work within these environments to promote products and services of clients. We look at in-game advertising, product placement opportunities, and even NFTs, but we do not have a working, functional definition of what is a “metaverse”. The word still lives in our imagination derived from seminal sci-fi novels of tech dystopia.


With the establishment of ARROVA.Inc by D.A.Consortium Inc. (DAC), it was essential that we have a working definition of“metaverse”.  ARROVA.Inc will focus on helping brands leverage the 3-billion gaming audience globally whether they are on casual games, mobile games, console games, e-sports, or metaverses.  This would span strategic planning, creative direction and production, media planning and technical integrations. The metaverse is a growing segment within this space that offers brands longer engagement time as well audience attention. However, what is a “metaverse”? How do we define it so that clients can understand and that ARROVA.Inc can execute campaigns that are effective.


How did the term “metaverse” come about?


The term“cyberspace” was coined by William Gibson in the 1984 novel Neuromancer, which forecasted the connected digital world of the Internet and how we interacted with it visually (and aurally) via decks and consoles. In 1992, NealStephenson introduce the term “metaverse” in his book, Snow Crash.Written at the beginning of the Internet, Snow Crash’s metaverse involves a virtually reality world that is an unbounded reflection of the real world - one without limitations of physics and governments. In 2003, Second Life by LindenLabs gave us a virtual world on a flat screen, but that never really took off.In 2011, with Web 2.0 well adopted by the world, Ernest Cline’s ReadyPlayer, One gave us a “metaverse” called OASIS that is similar to SnowCrash’s virtual world and solidified the concept of jacking in with goggles and interacting with others. However, the reality right now is that there are many, many distinct unconnected environments that are called metaverses from MMO games to mobile games to virtual platforms like Decentraland.


So what should the advertising industry consider what is and isn’t a metaverse? In order for ARROVA. Inc to help clients, we need to come up with a functioning definition of “metaverse” as it is today. This definition is not just about clearly defining the concept; we need to also clearly define the specifications and platforms in which we can operate– in order to create brand experiences and engage with the audience.


What are characteristics of a metaverse today?


It is online and connected to the internet infrastructure. The platform and environment are “always on”, and users must be online (jacked in) in order to participate in that universe. Users do not have to be on goggles and virtual reality headsets. They can also be on their mobiles or tablets or PCs. They do not have to be on a wired LAN network, but can interact via 3G, 4G, 5G or wifi.Being online and connected is an integral characteristic of a metaverse. As far as advertising is concerned, that’s what “digital” is all about.


Another characteristic is that the metaverse must have multiple users interacting within that environment – within that community. This could be playing games with or against each other, chatting about whatever (voice or text), watching something together, or having a virtual meeting with your avatars.  This is essentially a communal space where people can randomly come and go as they please.  It could of course be argued what a virtual meeting on Google Meets, Microsoft Teams or Zoom is also a metaverse; indeed, this is what Meta is saying Horizon should be – with avatars and all. From an advertising perspective, those are private environments and may not be accessible by advertising, so we would prefer a “public” metaverse.


Another defining characteristic is that it is “real-time”. Facebook is an online community, but we don’t call it a metaverse.  People come in and out at their own time and interact in a non-temporal fashion. We leave comments, post, share, and react –but whenever we want to get on - at our own leisure. We do not interact on social networks in real-time with other people; it is not expected by other users. In a metaverse, people expect to play games and interact with each other"in the now” and not the later.  As far as the digital advertising industry is concerned, real-time is exactly how we have evolved our ad technology stacks to be good at: getting clients’ messages to the right people, at the right time.


Putting these characteristics together, we can define the “metaverse” to be online, real-time communities. There are “private” and “public” metaverses. There are metaverses that allow ad and sponsorships to their users via programmatic advertising, product placement sponsorships or other more creative activations.As ARROVA.Inc is a business that focuses onnext-generation media initiatives in virtual content such as games andmetaverse/XR, having a clear definition helps clients understand the space better and aligns ARROVA’s approach with major game companies and prominent domestic metaverse businesses that DAC has partnerships.


Will this definition hold true as we further evolve into Web 3.0 and beyond? Perhaps it will be refined to include the visual 3D web rather than the flat 2D web.Perhaps the concept of metaverse will become irrelevant as it would just be part of “digital advertising”. At the moment, this definition is useful in defining what can be called “metaverse” and what is not – as far as the advertising industry is concerned.


Joe Nguyen is a Senior Strategic Advisor of H+, a newAPAC-wide digital service network of Hakuhodo/DAC group. Based in Ho Chi MinhCity and Singapore, he is also a Consultant, Advisor, Speaker, Ex-Officio ofIAB Southeast Asia and India, and a Board Member of MMA APAC. Joe also consults with the Asia Video Industry Association (AVIA) to manage the Premium VideoAdvertising Committee. His previous roles have spanned from Chief OperatingOfficer to Chief Technical Officer to leading Sales & Marketing. Until recently,Joe was the Senior Vice President, Asia Pacific at comScore, Inc. Joe has over20 years of senior management experience in Asia Pacific media, measurement,analytics, and eCommerce.

This article has been featured in Campaign Asia

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