What will advertising in the metaverse look like? Gaming platform Roblox platform recently provided an answer by previewing a new advertising format, Immersive Ads. Immersive Ads make it possible for businesses to build 3D portals, where players of games on Roblox can be transported to customized virtual words. Because Roblox is considered to be one of the platforms shaping the future of the metaverse, Immersive Ads are significant and worthy of closer attention.
A Refresher: What Is the Metaverse?
The metaverse refers to an interconnected digital world where people and businesses exist through avatars. In the metaverse, avatars do everything from attend business meetings to buy goods and services using digital currencies. The term was coined decades ago in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 science-fiction novel Snow Crash. Aspects of the metaverse are here already. In fact, Linden Lab launched an early version of the metaverse in 2003, Second Life, which was too far ahead of its time to gain a widespread breakthrough. But gaming platforms such as Fortnite and Roblox, where people hang out via avatars, are metaverse environments, and they have become enormously popular – they’re just not connected yet. And businesses have quickly set up shop on the metaverse. In Roblox’s virtual world, for example, a digital-only Gucci bag sold for more money than the bag would have netted in the physical world. And Walmart recently launched a metaverse environment in Roblox to sell toys to kids.
What Did Roblox Announce?
Businesses are still in the early stages of actually advertising inside the metaverse, but Roblox gave a strong glimpse at how ads will work. At the Roblox Developers Conference (RDC), the company previewed Immersive Ads, which will be launched in 2023. According to Roblox, this is an innovative 3D advertising experience that will be clearly labeled as such and will be native to the platform. Brands and developers will be able to build new ad experiences on Roblox, including portals that can seamlessly transport users back and forth between experiences. This will create new opportunities for developers to generate revenue and enable brands to reach their communities more effectively.
The video below shows how Immersive Ads will work. In the video, a Roblox character approaches a 3D portal to Vans World, which is a virtual skatepark that Vans launched in 2021. The portal is adorned with Roblox Vans World posters. A video previewing the experience and bearing a “Sponsored” disclosure plays on a screen overhead. An avatar steps through the portal where it is transported to a branded space.
The experience is really not that different from how brands advertise on gaming sites, with digital signage adorning metaverse living spaces just as signs and posters do in the physical world.
According to Richard Sim, senior product director for monetization at Roblox, “If you have a bus stop or like the side of a building, you can apply that image ad to the side of the building, and it’ll just render the right creative to the right user at the right time.”
Walmart Offers New Possibilities
The opportunities for brands can become very targeted as in the above example or more immersive, which is what the new Walmart metaverse experiences promise.
Walmart’s immersive experiences – Walmart Land and Universe of Play – are virtual playgrounds where Walmart will be able to advertise toys to families. Inside Walmart Land and Universe of Play, a variety of minigames and experiences await, including a Ferris wheel, interactive piano walkway, and DJ booth. These experiences connect people (their avatars, actually) with different brands. A virtual dressing room lets you spend coins collected in Walmart Land to adorn your avatar with Skullcandy headphones or a Fitbit fitness tracker. In Universe of Play you can race Razor scooters round a track or hang out with PAW Patrol characters.
Technically there is no advertising yet in Walmart Land and Universe of Play although it’s possible for avatars to buy merchandise via tokens earned through various games. But it’s hard to imagine Walmart not capitalizing on advertising opportunities through Walmart’s fast growing advertising arm, Walmart Connect. Stay tuned!
Lessons for Brands
- Immersive Ads show how brands can advertise and how Roblox will grow as a platform. Roblox will earn money by charging brands to create Immersive Ads, while businesses such as Vans will advertise and sell virtual goods (many brands are doing the latter already). The ads on Roblox may not be as immersive as many might expect, but Roblox is likely trying to avoid spamming its gaming community.
- Businesses should always remember their audiences before diving into advertising on the metaverse. How attuned is your audience to immersive worlds such as the metaverse? Is marketing and advertising in the metaverse a good fit for them? Currently, the biggest audience for the metaverse skews young: Gen Zers who have grown up gaming and for whom the intricacies of a virtual world are already familiar. But some brands are addressing this divide by reaching out directly to an older cohort. Roblox, for example, has developed features to appeal to older users. And so, the attendant question to ask yourself is: do you have the energy and resources to think outside the box and woo your audience, no matter what generation they inhabit?
- Assess your appetite for experimentation. This is a brave new world that’s constantly changing. How comfortable are you with that dynamic?
- Learn from businesses that have been getting involved in advertising and marketing in immersive gaming worlds, which are, as noted, extremely popular in the metaverse. A really good example consists of brands that have been embracing in-game ads, as we blogged here.