How Advertisers Can Help Create a Brand Safe Metaverse

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By Csaba Szabo, Managing Director EMEA, Integral Ad Science

If 2021 was the year that the metaverse burst through into public consciousness, 2022 has seen what was once the hypothetical vision of Silicon Valley start to materialise.

It has already become serious business. Facebook’s rebranding to Meta and announcement of its plans to spearhead this new age has caused a gold rush of sorts, with companies of all shapes and sizes working out where they will fit in this new ecosystem. Consumers have been ready to dive, taking part in virtual raves, sporting events and concerts, while Nike’s pop-up metaverse store saw nearly 7 million visitors.

With the early hype surrounding the metaverse turning into sustained excitement, it is unsurprising that projections say that it could be worth $800 billion by 2024.

For marketers, the metaverse will throw up issues that will seem familiar – measurement, brand safety – in an environment that has many new content forms. While speculating exactly what shape the metaverse will take is tough, what is clear is that marketers will need to harness the lessons learnt in web2 to tackle new issues in web3.

Harnessing New Forms

While it seems like video and audio content has been around online forever, it is worth remembering that the web’s humble text-based origins were forever changed with the launch of YouTube back in 2005 – but it still took many years for brands and advertisers to truly master the power of video.

The dawn of the metaverse brings with it new content forms for marketers and brands to wrap their heads around. The vision of the metaverse as a fully immersive world accessible by all may be some way off, but AR and VR-enabled experiences are already impressing. In fact, 3D measurement capabilities for in-game advertising may be the first hurdle for marketers, as it seems the more natural stepping stone into a fully immersive experience, and gaming is undoubtedly a big driver for wider metaverse adoption. In essence, enabling the capabilities for current gaming environments will still be relevant in virtual ones down the road.

Performances and experiences are already very popular with users. Concerts from artists like David Guetta or interactive brand experiences like the Gucci Garden have shown the creative possibilities of the metaverse. Add into the mix the range of personalisable avatars, digital collectables and even cryptocoins, and there is a plethora of options for advertisers to sink their creative teeth into already.

These new spaces will also present marketers with new types of data that can deliver deeper and more sophisticated insights into user behaviour.

Tracking Gains

While user intent now may be tracked by clicks and mouse tracking, the metaverse will be able to take into account a whole range of other signals. For example, a marketer may be able to measure a consumers’ body movement in the metaverse to gauge engagement and interest in a piece of content.

But as brands navigate this new ecosystem, they will need to remain diligent. Where consumers go, bad actors usually follow. As the industry saw with the burgeoning of the video content market just over a decade ago, ad fraud is a serious risk, leading to overinflated stats and wasted budget.

To stop these same issues repeating in web3, industry-wide quality and measurement standards should be built into the very foundation of the metaverse. It is imperative that we learn the lessons from the previous iteration of the internet and implement measures to make new digital environments safer and more secure for both brands and users from the outset.

Safe Surfing

But ad fraud is not the only problem likely to migrate from web2 to web3. The fast-moving, interactive, hyper-visual new environment of the metaverse will create further safety issues and brands may run the risk of appearing next to inappropriate content. On top of this, consumer concerns over privacy will likely grow leading to ever-tightening privacy legislation.

Brand safety and suitability solutions can be the answer to both these problems. This powerful targeting method not only keeps brands safe, but provides a cost efficient way to reach target audiences, by placing advertisements in environments that are deemed both safe and contextually relevant by advanced AI.

Consumer perception of brands are also greatly affected by where their ads appear. Nearly three in four (70%) of UK consumers say that their perception of an online ad is impacted by the surrounding content on the page. On the flip side, contextually placed ads drive up to 40% more memorability than ads in environments unrelated to their content. All in all, whilst the format may be different, brands will need to factor the consumer ad experience in a digital realm just as they have done online for many years.

Ultimately, it’s still early days for a fully fledged digital advertising ecosystem in the metaverse. We’re still at the ‘test and learn’ phase, but it’s important to get a head start. Undoubtedly, if it’s where users go, marketers will follow; and the need for verification and digital media quality will not be far behind.

Making the metaverse a safer place for both brands and users will take more than tech solutions. The advertisers will need to collaborate in order to create standardised guidelines and a shared language in which to talk about brand safety and suitability in this brave new world – much like what GARM is doing now.

The metaverse offers endless possibilities for brands. But in order to take full advantage, we must take heed learnings of the past and build a new environment that all are able to enjoy.

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