What the metaverse? Three things the ad world can teach us about audiences today

The dust has settled on Ad Week 2022. 

The gateway festival to the advertising world gave us a taste of the cultural and technology trends affecting brands today, and how audiences are responding to big shifts globally. Our team rallied onsite to turn key learnings into tangible takeaways for marketing professionals working in brand experiences, film and creative communications. Take a look –

Trend 1: Evolving web experiences – Web 3.0, but when? And more importantly, why? 

Evolving technology is transforming the way consumers interact with brands online. Intuitive networking, gamified online events and on-demand viewing encourages digital communities to learn, retain, and return; something the gaming industry has done well for eons. 

Enter Web 3.0, or at least, the concept of it. A big buzz word at Ad Week 2022, Web 3.0 promises a new dawn of the internet; a set of virtual spaces where you can interact and explore with other people who aren’t in the same physical space as you. A game changer (in theory) for virtual events. Our take? Exciting, but much further away than the tech world would have us believe. 

While Web 3.0 is being heralded as the next evolution of the internet,  in reality we are years from implementing it. More realistically, brands are pushing the boundaries of Web 2.0 to open more opportunities for immersive brand storytelling. For example, luxury fashion label Hugo Boss gave their entire show over to a ‘metaverse creator’ for the world’s first-ever Digital Fashion Week. Users could buy real Hugo Boss goods through meta-commerce, a concept inspired by web 3.0 but well within the capabilities of Web 2.0. Fashion retailer Forever 21 partnered with Roblox and invited users to create their own virtual stores. Cheerful Twentyfirst created a similar immersive experience for Loewe Foundation, transforming their iconic Craft Prize Awards into a 3D exhibition experience and through AR, brought the art into peoples homes to explore first-hand.

The key is not to use technology for technology’s sake. There are plenty of exciting opportunities to learn from the early adopters but brands need to find their place in the metaverse in a way that makes sense to their values and their audiences. As marketers, it’s up to us to ask why, interrogate the brief and evolve an experience in Web 2.0 and perhaps in the future, Web 3.0 as well. 

Trend 2: Relevancy

In our hyper-connected world, finding relevancy with your audience is crucial. Businesses need to continually flex their communications to consider the ever-changing needs, platforms and engagement tools to meet an audience on their turf. Missteps in relevancy can be more damaging than silence in some instances, as younger audiences are less forgiving than ever of campaigns that appear ‘out of touch’ or off brand, and will disengage quickly. 

On the opposite side of the spectrum, brands that can get this right, do so well. 

John Lewis partnered with ITV and Fornite to deepen their annual Christmas campaign, extending their highly anticipated advert beyond a screen and into new formats within the Metaverse. Inside the custom world, users could purchase from the John Lewis virtual store and engage in some of ITV’s most iconic programming. The activation lived and breathed John Lewis values, made hyper relevant by festive games linking guests back to the advert, and accessing a new audience without sacrificing on authenticity.

Relevancy is the gateway to engagement. Jungle Scout’s 2021 Consumer Report suggests that 58% of consumers buy from – and advocate for – brands that align with their own beliefs and values. The next generation of audience (hiya Gen Z-ers) expect relevancy from the brands they engage with; favouring businesses that are vocal about their intentions and ways of working.

This trend is somewhat unsurprising given we know audiences are reevaluating their lifestyle choices and communities post-pandemic. Purpose-led communications is already playing a huge role in influencing brand experiences and film campaigns today. ESG and social action are more frequently at the centre of the message; building connection, community and ultimately relevancy with its intended audience.

Line of people stand holding their mobile devices. Black and white photographh

Trend 3: Humanity

The rise of user-generated content has changed audience behaviours at a lightning pace. Now more than ever, consumers are craving content that feels ‘human,’ looking for transparency and authenticity over polish. 

This shift means the next phase of brand experiences will be people-centric, with brands placing a greater emphasis on storytelling to build trust with their customers and employees. Smart brands will focus on building trust through an open and honest dialogue with their audiences, though not at the sacrifice of technology. 

Virgin Media showed us that technology can be slick and human all at once. Their ‘Two Hearts Pizzeria’ campaign created a shared experience for close friends and family through the magic of hologram. Mid-pandemic, research from the broadband provider revealed half (50%) of respondents were ‘bored’ of video calls, with 63% saying they lacked the human connection we were all longing for. Their response was a real-time, life-size holographic dining experience like no other – bringing loved ones from across the country to the same ‘table’ to enjoy a slice.  

Ultimately, this trend is underpinned by human connection. Showing vulnerability and humanity  will resonate with empathetic audiences and build a stronger affinity between guest and experience. 

This article was guest authored by Cheerful Twentyfirst Account Director, Georgina Burrows.