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From ‘scrolling to strolling’ – the evolving world of Web3
Web 2.0 marked an iteration of the internet where it truly became ingrained in people’s daily lives, where people began to contribute actively – but endless scrolling has effectively peaked and with the owned, immersive web3 we’re seeing a shift to three dimensional worlds where people can stroll around, explained Nick Pringle, executive creative director, R/GA: “It doesn’t actually exist yet but it’s getting there. It is a promise.”
He explained how Gen A experiences the internet in a totally different way than the rest of us and they expect to meet brands in that space. Their experience of the internet is 3D; Roblox, Minecraft, playing with friends through immersive games.
“They are consumers of the future, their expectations are being set now and they will expect a 3D internet experience in the future. They buy things for their avatar – the avatar is them, to them. The experience of immersive play was lost during the pandemic and is now experienced online.”
It means that creativity has become even more of a central focus in this context and requires a certain skillset to take advantage of the freedom that the metaverse creates – no laws of physics, no precedent, and little regulation (for the moment). This is an opportunity for brands and creators to “do something genuinely different” and create value.
Taking back control – creators in the metaverse
Where influencers share their content currently (social media), the platforms essentially own their content. If the platform goes away, so does the money and the transaction, explained Charlotte Clisby, head of global partnerships, Space Runners: “Influencers had less control on web 2.0 but on web 3.0, they get control back – they take back ownership as they can control the transaction on their own platforms.”
Creators are the first adopters of these new worlds and can help with the awareness and education piece of the metaverse and its capabilities for brands. There is very little data on who is currently using web3 as we currently know it because much less data is shared. Brands are “relying on creators to help educate as first adopters in the space and then how to practically use it,” she said, to become part of the cultural conversation.
Jennifer Roebuck, board advisor and consumer leader in Web3, spoke of the learning curve that many brands are on – led by brands who are extremely engaged (like Gucci and Nike) versus those on the other end of the spectrum who are literally doing it as a tick box exercise for vanity metrics.
For brands, the conversation tends to centre around the idea that they need to be in web3 or the metaverse, but they need to understand why they are entering that cultural space. Oyin Akiniyi, global head of cultural conversation, Chivas, said: “When you get into spaces that aren’t your space, as a brand you have to be patient and you have to experiment without expectation. That’s the hardest thing for brands to get their head around as ROI can’t be measured by vanity metrics.”
“Ultimately the brand has to be able to contribute in a meaningful way,” she added. “It may be accepted or it may not be. You have to be brave and sometimes you just have to take a risk, then use your results and learnings to sell back in.”
A marathon, not a sprint – the long-term play
Many brands are nervous about being involved in the space, due to the very public nature of things like NFTs. “There’s a nervousness about the perception of being involved in the space, primarily because it’s overly financialised right now,” said Jennifer. “But the positives outweigh the negatives and you have to be prepared to manage the reputational aspects.”
If brands rush into it, using a celebrity to promote a product without prior knowledge of the space, it can often end in disaster. Whereas, working with someone who genuinely understands the space and has a team around them to help do it right means that the partnership is more authentic.
Brands and the creators they choose to work with need to be adding value to the environments they enter and the communities within them. “For creators coming into this space, authenticity is key because it is so transparent and the people in this space are ruthless, they will call it out – they are very dedicated communities,” said Charlotte.
The metaverse doesn’t just ‘flick on’, said Nick, it gets integrated slowly and with experimentation. “It requires operational change and that cannot happen quickly – some businesses have to go out and get the battle scars now, learn from it, tune up, understand your audience and get strategic. Progressive brands are testing and learning to maximise the value from being in these spaces.”
Web3 is an equaliser because distribution is open to all. For brands to add value in the long game with web3, they need to be willing to test and learn, work with the right creators and find ways to stand out in the attention economy. But above all, they need to be authentic – and authenticity is a marathon, not a sprint.