NEW YORK — Metaverse activations and game-like experiences continue to be on the rise this year as marketers look to reach digitally driven consumers, but until such plays are seen as an experience versus an experiment, valuable success metrics will likely remain out of reach, according to Eric Pulier, CEO of Web3 enterprise class platform Vatom, who discussed metaverse marketing tactics during an Advertising Week panel on Thursday.
In the past year, brands have leveraged the metaverse in a variety of ways, whether it be a virtual storefront, collection of mini-games, augmented reality experience or as a pathway to nonfungible tokens (NFTs). The number of users visiting such activations and the time spent per session offers some insight to performance. However, a data gap lies in the inability to track success beyond walled gardens, begging the question of whether or not such channels are worth it.
“In the end, the data that you’re getting is similar to doing a very successful television commercial — it’s exposure,” said Pulier. “You’re not really building a relationship with that audience, you’re not getting the first party data, you’re not then following up and creating that ongoing experience that is really the essence of a communication strategy.”
In its current stage, Pulier defines the progression of marketing in the metaverse as the “first inning,” and to move the needle, brands need to be adopting an always-on mindset that keeps the end-consumer in mind, he said during the panel titled “Marketing in the Metaverse,” which also featured panelists from Procter & Gamble and iHeartMedia.
In one example, the exec pointed to PepsiCo’s Frito-Lays, which this week launched its FIFA World Cup campaign. As part of the campaign, consumers who buy select Frito-Lay products can scan a QR code on a product bag to be prompted to take a selfie, which will then appear on a giant, digital soccer ball. The experience, perhaps the largest cumulative art project in history, Pulier said, offers an initial trade-off — data in exchange for an experience — but also holds the potential for FIFA fans to check back in to see new faces and a finished product.
“You have this notion of this experience that you’ve taken part of in a virtual plane that now results in an emotional experience and an ongoing dialogue with the brand that is positive — value is on both sides,” he continued.
IHeartMedia has already begun making good on the concepts outlined by Pulier with the launch of its always-on iHeartLand in Fortnite in August. The space, which boasts a virtual concert arena sponsored by State Farm, has plans to host 20 events over the next year.
Building iHeartLand meant stepping back and unpacking what the team believed the metaverse was in order to move forward intentionally, said Rahul Sabnis, chief creative officer at iHeartMedia. A key priority throughout is ensuring digital spaces are easily accessible, opening the door without potentially complex add-ons, like cryptocurrency or blockchain technology, so that a wide range of consumers would feel compelled to play and brands, like State Farm, have the opportunity to tap into multiple audiences.
“It’s not just a one and done but creating an ongoing dialogue with our communities where they are,” Sabnis continued. The concept has proven successful so far — Charlie Puth headlined the first concert hosted at the virtual arena, and in one weekend, Puth had the audience equivalent to 50 performances at Madison Square Garden, per the executive.
IHeartMedia also partnered with Vatom to create a platform built off a scannable QR code that takes existing live events and creates a blended reality opportunity intended to enhance experiences on site with exclusive opportunities and perks that wouldn’t be accessible otherwise.
“That’s the exchange of data that we feel is very transparent,” Sabnis said. “One of the things that we look for when having people come to our concerts is that they can take more control of their identity and have an ongoing relationship with events.”
The scannable QR code that makes up iHeart’s strategy is representative of the evolution from Web2 to Web3, Pulier said. In the past, fans scanning a QR code would likely be prompted to download a plethora of apps for exclusive benefits. Now, consumers from a single connection point can opt-in to individually, legally and ethically have a relationship with every brand partner that iHeart brings to the table.
“Those ongoing relationships are how you measure success,” Pulier continued. “Did you get the data, did the experience create value for both sides, and do you have an opportunity to follow up? It’s marketing, advertising and loyalty all collapsed into one.”
Procter & Gamble is still nailing down their metaverse strategy, according to Kimberly Doebereiner, group vice president, Future of Advertising and head of P&G Studios, but it’s already found brand-exclusive ways to offer value to consumers.
In one example, the exec pointed to a tie-up with Vatom and Tied to create a program as part of its “Turn to Cold with Tide” sustainability campaign that allowed consumers to log how many cold laundry washes they do for the chance to level up and earn prizes — 80% of consumers said they would enjoy doing it again, Doebereiner said. In a similar example, she referenced the P&G LifeLab, a virtual world that focused on sustainability education with highlighted brands like Charmin and its forestry efforts — the average session length in the world was 20 minutes.
“It’s not always on yet, but it is a way for us to create those in-depth people experiences that allow them to have information the way they want to receive it,” she said.
A promising value exchange could also be centered around accessibility. Doebereiner pointed to a Snapchat augmented-reality tool created by Pampers that allows a storybook to come to life for parents to have the opportunity to read to their children. The fact that 40,000 books have been read nods to the potential for consumers to not only come back to the experience, but even integrate it into their routines, she said.
“That’s an amazing way for Pampers to serve the parents who may or may not have access to books all the time,” she said. “To me that is moving us along, how do we create more immersive personalized experiences that the consumer is in control of that the brand is able to serve.