Unlocking the Metaverse: A Programmatic Guide

By Stephen Magli, founder and CEO, AI Digital

It’s the next digital gold rush. With Apple’s latest investment of its recent Vision Pro headset launch and Meta’s launch of the Meta Quest 3, the metaverse’s fortified revival and relevance cannot be overlooked; and for brands, adoption of the new frontier into digital marketing is making gains closer to reality.

The buy-in for consumers is there. According to a 2022 report, 87% of U.S. consumers believe the metaverse will play a significant role in the way they interact with brands and 69% of marketers stated they were looking to build more experiences in metaverse-like environments in 2023. As the metaverse quickly develops into our newest frontier, brands and marketers need to understand the value of using programmatic technology and the key role it plays within this realm.

In fact, we’re already seeing it. Case in point – online sports games. Brands are using programmatic technology to display in-game advertising where ads can be dynamically placed on digital billboards based on a consumer’s interest. However, if we’re to take this further and ‘unlock the metaverse’ for programmatic, how can marketers reach consumers who are eager for experiences across multiple digital channels?

Let’s break down what awaits the industry, how to develop a strong programmatic advertising plan for the metaverse, and how marketers can better position themselves for mainstream metaverse success.

Adjusting to Real-World Products

The metaverse is a whole new arena that aims to connect and exchange information at an unrivaled scale, where users can spend long periods of time in new and exciting ways. One major consideration point for brands and marketers is how to present real-world products in the metaverse.

Specifically, marketers need to consider how they can engage consumers in the metaverse and consider the value exchange they’re offering consumers, who have high expectations regarding the value exchange they expect from brands for their time and engagement. Ultimately, engagement in the metaverse depends on the type of product being offered. If the engagement is meant to be lower-funnel and geared towards a conversion, a brand may need a digital product and/or value to participate and provide consumers.

That being said, there will be meaningful branding opportunities in the metaverse as well. A great example of a hybrid approach is Nike and their metaverse space on Roblox—Nikeland. The excitement around a platform where people can buy virtual products (sneakers, no less) is enticing, and establishes a sense of community building within the metaverse while also creating a new product marketplace for the future.

A Programmatic Advertising Plan Starts with Prioritizing New Tech

Tools that allow display or video ads to be inserted into in-game environments are paving the way for how marketers are adapting to the metaverse and reinforcing their strategic programmatic approach to reach their consumer targets. Of course, some of the more advanced technologies can inject branding onto in-game items – but often those activations require manual work.

The metaverse will offer a wider range of inventory sources spanning across virtual TV screens, online magazines, radio stations and other various types of inventory resulting in a need to build solutions that work with today’s ad tech ecosystem. A good guess on which players may be first to market are DSPs and SSPs that currently offer in-play ads and can plug into metaverse inventory from the same suppliers.

Another important consideration is adjusting measurement strategies, which may not easily be adapted to the metaverse. The metaverse is a different type of environment where experiences may require varied forms of measurement that stretch beyond traditional vanity/engagement metrics to CRM amplification and/or lower-funnel actions.

Set Realistic Goals to Find Mainstream Metaverse Success

If we look at the metaverse and its evolution thus far, the endgame is centered around creating an experience for consumers. Twenty-five percent of people are expected to spend at least one hour a day in the metaverse for work, shopping, education, social media, and entertainment by 2026. Whether it’s marketing products or services, or leveraging the metaverse to build a clients CRM, savvy marketers must understand how to set goals and recognize how they can start taking advantage of new opportunities.

Some brands are already experimenting in new and interesting ways in metaverse environments, and one goal seems to be to connect to real-life brand experiences and strengthen brand awareness with key audiences. For example, earlier this year The Home Depot launched an activation in Roblox that aimed to recreate the in-person experience for children at its stores called the Kids Workshops. The experience allows Roblox players to visit a virtual Home Depot store location and engage in building projects including bird houses, flower gardens and cars.

The experience also promoted engagement with a virtual store associate and prompted players to explore the virtual store by collecting the materials needed for the building projects. Roblox is a hugely popular game, and this new experience may help children to become more familiar with The Home Depot and look forward to real-life outings to stores with their families. Whether the goal is raising brand awareness, connecting with new audiences, sales, or something else, it’s important to be intentional and set realistic expectations.

The Metaverse — with big name brands like Apple and Meta setting the tone for how functionality will unlock new ways of selling, shopping, and engaging – is a great test and learning opportunity, and the brands who are able to become familiar and comfortable with it stand to gain learnings. To be successful, it’s important to consider how to integrate the consumer value exchange and business goals. No doubt, looking at it from a consumer-first lens is critical to deliver a successful experience.

About the Author

Stephen Magli is founder and CEO of AI Digital, a programmatic consultancy firm helping agencies and advertisers navigate the digital ecosystem with an AI optimized and analytics-based approach to programmatic technology and better business outcomes.