Norm Chait is senior director and OOH practice lead at Quotient, and sat down to share how DOOH and advertising in general are reshaped by the emerging technology forming the metaverse, from videogames to the general metaverse.
Norm Chait is senior director and OOH practice lead at Quotient, and sat down to share how the metaverse is reshaping DOOH and advertising in general, in video games and beyond.
Q: Let’s start off with the basics for our readers who are new to the so-called metaverse. What is the metaverse, in a nutshell, and why is it such a big deal right now?
A: The metaverse doesn’t refer to any one specific type of technology but is generally considered a network of universal and immersive virtual worlds. Common cases of the metaverse today include virtual reality that taps into virtual worlds that exist even when you’re not actively playing, and augmented reality that combines aspects of the physical and digital worlds.
The metaverse is interesting for advertisers because of the countless possibilities that aren’t feasible in the physical world. Instead of company meetings over Zoom, meetings can be conducted “anywhere” in the world, such as on the grass in Central Park or in a boardroom at the top of the Empire State Building. Operating room surgeons can seamlessly collaborate and train in an environment that mimics the real world while saving precious working hours that would have been spent traveling. There are endless collaborative possibilities that could be easily implemented in the metaverse, overcoming the impediment of distance that we find in the physical world.
Q: Thanks for that! So, we’ve been reading reports about efforts to get advertising into videogames, particularly console-based games. Do you think this is the future? And just how big are we talking — is this going to become an essential or even dominant part of DOOH, and what kind of timeline are we looking at?
A: eMarketer values the video game ad business at more than $8 billion, which represents nearly 6% of the estimated $140 billion digital ad market. Advertising in video games has largely been an untapped market due to various technological gaps but is on track for exponential growth in the coming years. While this new medium is unlikely to overtake today’s DOOH landscape anytime soon, we’re already seeing the beginning stages of campaigns that dip into both the physical and digital worlds. Just last year, Ocean Outdoor and LandVault partnered to launch the first “dual-world” DOOH campaign, with retailer Argos being advertised across England and the metaverse using the same billboard. As the metaverse continues to gain traction with mainstream audiences, we’ll see marketers increasingly begin to shift and grow their ad presence within the metaverse.
Q: Speaking as a gamer, gamers can be a testy bunch. How do you think ads in the metaverse will go over? Are gamers going to accept the shift or are they going to rebel against the penetration of ads into this entertainment space?
A: With millions of players viewing scenery at any given moment, the metaverse seems like an ideal place for ads to be included. The key to implementing digital signage in the metaverse is to ensure that the ad integration doesn’t negatively affect the players’ experience. If an in-game ad is served on a muddy and windy racetrack, that banner should ripple in the wind and be splattered with mud as it would normally. If implemented correctly with the goal of immersion in mind, there’s a chance that gamers will see ads as a natural part of their virtual experience in the same way that they experience ads in the real world.
Q: This kind of gets us thinking about the power of interactive features in DOOH, which are still in their infancy. Do you see a future where metaverse advertising leverages interactivity, the IoT and smart home, and more to do things like, say, know exactly when a gamer usually gets hungry (displaying a Taco Bell ad on a billboard in the game they are playing), maybe with a QR code for ordering? Maybe this gets social — will popular streamers be able to share coupons or discounts with followers in the actual game environment, or can you share a gift card for a free dinner with your fellow (anonymized) teammates in an online RPG? The sky’s basically the limit, it seems.
A: Interactivity within the advertising industry is a common challenge that many marketers are working to solve. When you shift your focus to the metaverse, the possibilities for interactive advertising are endless. Since the metaverse is in such a state of infancy, it’ll be intriguing to see who can marry the various platforms available today into a seamless and interactive experience within the metaverse. Not only does the metaverse hold the potential of reshaping in-game advertising as we know it, but any solutions for interactivity within the metaverse might also have implications across the broader advertising industry.
Q: DOOH experts like to talk about “unskippable,” a powerful aspect of billboards, ads in taxis and so forth. Is this going to be part of DOOH in the metaverse? Are game developers going to have this weird, tiered subscription experience where gamers have to pay a premium to “turn off” ads in the game environment?
A: It’s vital for in-game DOOH ads to fit seamlessly into its given environment in order to preserve the overall experience for the user. If developers can implement DOOH ads properly, an ad-free subscription or unskippable features wouldn’t be necessary. In-game ads that emulate our reality, such as billboards, taxi cabs and anywhere else that can hold a digital screen, are meant to increase the consumer’s immersion while bringing further reach for brands that otherwise wasn’t available to them. Out-of-home ads easily blend into our daily environments in the physical world, and it’s up to the developers to have this carry true within the virtual world.
Q: You are very much the expert on this nascent field, so we want to hand you the steering wheel (or game controller!) and let you drive for a minute. What are the absolutely essential things our readers need to know going into this brave new world, and how can businesses and consumers prepare for this future?
A: DOOH advertising in the metaverse is an exciting area on the horizon for the industry, and it’s only a matter of time for the field to gain legitimacy and grow its popularity. For this to happen, developers need to offer digital signage solutions that are consistent with what is currently being used in the marketplace today, which includes audience verification and