Regulations in the Metaverse
The metaverse is a new, yet booming topic for most people, impacting lives across the globe. Of course, this creates problems with cross-border marketing regulations, especially toward legal grey zones like drugs and alcohol. Multinational corporations are always trying to gain the edge to increase sales of products, especially in the digital space. Digital advertising can reach anyone looking at a screen, which is basically everyone these days, especially considering that most young people will have a smartphone and social media accounts, it is extremely easy to target those age groups as potential long-term customers in a product that is arguably extremely harmful and dangerous when taken out of hand. The role of alcohol in the digital space is on the quick rise, and virtual reality can take that information a step further, having the ability to develop “biometric psychographics” which provides more personalized advertising. Virtual alcohol brands used in virtual social spaces will support brand loyalty to certain products over time. Addiction is a serious issue that affects millions of people every year. This has been proven for over decades and digital marketing has only attributed to these problems. New Zealand has experienced a significant increase in online sales during COVID-19, especially among heavy drinkers.
One of these companies is already taking advantage of the new marketing space. AB Inbev, one of the largest global alcohol corporations, and owner of Stella Artois, is getting their feet in the water, sponsoring the Australian Zed Run in which virtual reality horses are raced, bred, and traded. Being an extremely dynamic space, cross-border marketing in the metaverse is viewed as a sort of grey zone, beckoning for debate regarding the policy and the risks involved with target marketing towards alcoholic products. Brands and companies like Jose Cuervo and Heineken are also announcing their endeavors into the metaverse. While they need to be aware of the regulations that are currently in place, the amount of regulations are so few and already apply to alcohol companies that there isn’t much that needs to be done to step in the water, but have effects across borders that may not be considered within the regulations. There have been attempts in Finland to regulate user-shared branded material but have ultimately failed due to a lack of interference of social media architecture. But there has also been success in Norway, which outright banned alcohol marketing in digital media. The World Health Organization emphasized a need for surveillance and enforcement to monitor marketing breaches. This can be done through yearly audits and due diligence but will ultimately come down to the policy makers to come up with a long-term solution. It then becomes a question of will there be any policy changes, and if so, when?