Metaverse Marketing – Will it Work?
Mike Schaffer
Echo Factory

You’re walking down the street and look up to see a glowing neon sign for Miller Lite above a welcoming bar. The nostalgia of the lights draws you in and you happen to see an ad for the same Miller Lite running on the tv inside while you sip your own. The only difference here is you are actually in your living room, the neon sign, bar, and even the beer you are “drinking” are all virtual. As the concept of the metaverse gains steam, brands are starting to advertise within the space. But is the investment of metaverse advertising worth it? And if so, how does one maximize the opportunity while it’s still hot?

Niche Opportunities

The audience for metaverse advertising still remains a somewhat self-selecting group. Most people still don’t have the necessary hardware to enter the virtual reality space, so advertisers know that anyone who does see their metaverse ads are likely early adopters. If you’re trying to reach an audience of tech adopters, or even virtual reality users specifically, there may not be a better way to reach them.

Another group likely to do the best with these VR ads are going to be brands that can conduct transactions within the metaverse. It isn’t hard to see that an ad for something you have to remove your headset and physically go and purchase won’t be as effective as a virtual item that can be purchased right then and “there”. Advertising within the metaverse for the purchase of skins, virtual property, and locked experiences is going to have the highest conversion rate.

Advertising in the metaverse is a hot new phenomenon. Miller Lite’s Super Bowl adjacent metaverse ad pulled in tons of media coverage, creating earned media that exposed the ad and the brand to exponentially more people than actually went to the virtual bar. Victoria’s Secret launched a metaverse campaign that also received coverage. Now Jose Cuervo is introducing a metaverse distillery that it plans to launch this summer. It is hard to say how long the novelty of metaverse advertising will make these campaigns newsworthy (it may have already worn off) but as long as unique ways of using the new platform continue to arise there will be people in the real world willing to talk about them.

Billboards in the MetaVerse

Unfortunately, a lot of the advertising opportunities being talked about in the metaverse essentially amount to virtual reality billboards. As with billboards in the real world, these are known as display ads. Display ads are generally only effective at bringing general awareness to a brand or reminding people that a brand exists. Display ads in the metaverse are only going to perform the same or worse than display ads in the real world and due to the decreased audience, it is likely to be worse.

The problem here is that display ads are the easiest way to participate in this new fad. Seeing the attention brands are getting for the metaverse campaigns has made these ads more and more coveted. Brands may think that getting into the metaverse is their ticket to media hype, but without taking the time to look into what makes these ads effective they are at risk of a generic display ad that will have disappointing returns. To create truly effective ads in the metaverse, brands need to be creative and take some pretty large risks to make a campaign that truly works.

Interactivity is Key

As I mentioned, if you are thinking about the metaverse as just another venue to offer display ads, you are going to get at best the same performance per ad as you would in the real world. If, however, you think of the metaverse as an opportunity for brand activations through experiential marketing, activities that tend to be harder and more expensive to pull off IRL, the platform has more potential utility.

Miller Lite’s campaign involved not only an ad that could be viewed while in the metaverse, there was also an interactive space where they could spend time and interact with others. While your typical Super Bowl ad lasts for 30 seconds, users spent an average of 20 minutes interacting with Miller’s bar. While there they could both earn and purchase brand themed limited edition virtual items for their avatars, some of which have since gone on to become valuable collector’s items. Even after the event is over and Miller Lite is no longer spending money on the campaign, the items will continue to circulate and create brand impressions. Because the items are branded, they also become part of the owners’ personal identity.

Brands are only just figuring out how to take advantage of marketing opportunities in the metaverse but by applying principles of traditional advertising you can determine what types of campaigns will be effective. Don’t get drawn in by the hype and get stuck with a boring virtual billboard. If you’re considering stepping into the metaverse as an advertiser, think about how to give your audience an actual experience. They won’t associate your brand with a sign they saw once, but an actual memory of time they spent. As brands continue to create interactive experiences, and tailor them to the strengths of the virtual reality platform the effectiveness of the ads has a chance to be very high.