With its roots in gaming, the metaverse is a virtual space characterised by playfulness and community value creation. While the concept of bringing experiences to consumers through virtual reality isn’t new, the promise of what a converged world where physical and digital realities meet is particularly exciting.

A recent Future of Media online event, in partnership with TymeBank, The MediaShop, TBWA South Africa and Arena Holdings, discussed the challenges and opportunities in the metaverse frontier, and the myriad possibilities it holds for advertisers.

The metaverse will change the world, businesses and how we engage with others, explained Elizma Nolte, regional marketing manager for Meta Africa. The metaverse is about more than virtual reality, but rather a variety of digital spaces where we can connect with people, businesses and creators who are not in the same physical spaces. Avatars are how we represent and express who we are in the metaverse.

Communities, storytelling and even commerce are evolving in the metaverse, which, ultimately will be built by everyone. Although the metaverse is currently being experienced primarily through 2D applications, soon bridges will be built from these apps into more immersive virtual 3D experiences, said Nolte.

Melody Maker, partner for digital at M&C Saatchi Abel pointed out that because the metaverse is completely free of any boundaries or barriers, the opportunities for brands are almost unlimited. However, brands need to first understand how these communities work. And once they’re involved in the metaverse they will need to be prepared to relinquish a degree of control. It’s important to remember, however, that the metaverse is still in its infancy.

Digital specialist at The MediaShop, Murali Naidu said given that the metaverse offers an immersive augmented reality it will provide brands with a more engaging platform than traditional media platforms and will grow a new generation of consumers who want to be part of authentic communities. He agreed with Maker that brands need to understand their audiences. However, brands should not get hung up on quick fixes because the metaverse requires a long term approach.

Alan Buck, chief marketing officer at LÓreal South Africa added that although consumers were ready for the metaverse, the challenge in SA is that our digital infrastructure is not ready for the bandwidth required to provide a fully immersive environment. From a business perspective, the metaverse will affect buying behaviours in ways that we have not yet even considered.

While it is still early days and there are many unanswered questions, the panel said it was a good idea to take the time to understand it. Do this by playing in it and having fun with it.

The big take-out: Communities, storytelling and even commerce are evolving in the metaverse but it’s important to take time to understand it

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